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Young students take entrepreneurial lead in Classroom Business Enterprise

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Mintonye Elementary students in Lafayette, Indiana, are learning firsthand how to harness economic skills and innovation to create a successful business through the hands-on Classroom Business Enterprise (CBE) program. Throughout the school year, Barbara Tilley’s third-grade students have worked together to plan, produce and sell two pioneering and earth-friendly products. Their hard work will be featured at the CBE Showcase on Purdue’s campus on April 12.

“For me, the primary value in CBE is that my students are learning life-skills in a way that they’ll remember for their whole lives,” Tilley says. “My students are learning to recognize and define problems in their daily environment, strategically develop solutions to them and work cooperatively as a team to make meaningful decisions and bring their ideas to life. Their work is making a difference in ways they can see and touch and I’m confident they won’t soon forget this experience.”

The Classroom Business Enterprise program is administered by the Purdue Center for Economic Education (PCEE), a national leader in economic literacy. Through teacher training and resource support, CBE allows elementary and middle school teachers to incorporate applied business experience in their current classroom curriculum, giving their students the opportunity to learn important economic skills.

“Often, economic education isn’t something we think about until students reach high school,” says Prof. Dave Perkis, PCEE director. “However, research and practice have shown that teaching economic decision-making at an early age alongside language and mathematical skills is essential for helping our students to retain these lessons long term. Introducing economic ideas during a student’s elementary years has the added benefit of allowing teachers to tie these lessons into other academic standards like reading, social studies, and STEM areas, giving students a more holistic view of how our economy works.”

This is Tilley’s second year implementing CBE in her classroom. Both years, her third-grade classes have identified problems in their school connected to environmental and sustainability concerns. A recent article in Bizvoice, the business magazine of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, highlighted her paper production business started by last year’s class. (See photo above right.)

“My students looked around and saw that a little bit of paper waste at our school an extra copy here or there quickly adds up,” Tilley says. They developed a plan to repurpose paper that would otherwise be wasted by shredding it and pressing it into custom stationery, which they then packaged, marketed, and sold for real money. With our profits, they chose to make donations to support ecological preservation efforts in the rain forest and on Mt. Everest! They learned that even at their young age, they are valuable citizens and what they do and how they interact with the world around them can have a big impact.”

You can learn about the entrepreneurial efforts of Tilley’s current class at the 2017 CBE Showcase on Wednesday, April 12, from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the Drawing Room of the Krannert Building on Purdue’s Campus. Students from area elementary and middle schools will display their hard work and receive constructive feedback from business and production experts. The event is open to the public and hosted by the Purdue Center for Economic Education, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary at Purdue’s Krannert School of Management.

If you would like to sponsor the Classroom Business Enterprise, please visit the PCEE donation page or contact the director of PCEE, David Perkis, at or (765) 496-2596.

Above right: Barbara Tilley’s students produce paper from pulp as part of last year’s Classroom Business Enterprise.