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Las Vegas fifth-graders run businesses out of their classrooms

A group of fifth-graders stood around a desk with ingredients, including detergent, food coloring and glue, spread out in front of them. They were making homemade slime.

And as they squished the gooey product in their hands, 11-year-old Dayan Torres said, “It’s really fun to play with and it’s a stress reliever.”

Dayan and 10-year-old Jocelyn Chavez are known as the slime masters in their class for their expert knowledge on the product, which they share with their classmates. It’s just one item in the product line of their student-run business, Korder’s Corner, which also specializes in scented candles. The business is named for their teacher, Casey Korder.

Parson Elementary School is the only school in Nevada using Education Corporations (or EdCorps) to create student-run, classroom-based businesses. EdCorps is part of Real World Scholars, a nonprofit organization that helps students start businesses.

Korder said he applied to be a part of the organization because he wanted to diversify the students’ learning experience.

“It gives them those skills to learn how to work together and to be entrepreneurs on their own,” he said. “Every subject gets incorporated in it. I didn’t have something like this growing up. It was sit and spew. Lecture. Lecture.”

Once the school was selected, Korder was given the option to receive startup funds to create a single business or multiple businesses for each of the school’s fifth-grade classes. He chose to develop three companies, including Korder’s Corner.

The others include his wife Debby Korder’s class, which started Korder’s Creative Creations and specializes slime, preserved jam, hand-painted flower pots and seeds, and Sweeney’s Luxurious Products — named for teacher Samantha Sweeney — which sells bath bombs and bath salts. Each class was given $1,000 to start a business.

The students, ages 10 to 12, developed their businesses during the fall and started production at the beginning of this year. They developed business plans, created logos and set prices. They also researched how to manufacture, label and distribute their products.

“It’s about empowering them to make those decisions,” Korder said. “(We) just kind of guide them.”

Once a week — during what is called STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and matemathics) Fridays — the students break up into their teams to make their products, and the classrooms turn into factories.

In Debby Korder’s class, two students use a jam and jelly maker to cook preserved jam from fruit that was grown in their teacher’s garden. Another group makes decorative clay pots. In another corner, students paint animal faces on recycled soda bottles and place gardening kits inside to make vegetables including lettuce, cilantro and peppers. Meanwhile, 11-year-old Edwin Santacruz designs the company’s website, and 10-year-old Jasmine Anderson shows off a commercial and jingle that she created.

The teachers train students on how to safely make their products and encourage creativity and critical thinking to solve problems.

“It blows my mind away,” Sweeney said. “I knew they had it in them. They surprise me every day when they do this.”

And when students hit roadblocks, they help each other.

“We experiment, and if something does not go right, it helps to learn from our mistakes so we can make the business better,” Jasmine said. “… I feel like it’s an amazing opportunity for fifth-graders to do this. When we’re older, if we want, we can start our own businesses and it will create jobs for more people. I’m just excited that we got to do something that’s this big.”

Parson’s principal, Christine Prosen, recalled a student’s comment made during one of the school’s weekly meetings.

“We have to conserve our resources and our materials because it affects our bottom line,” Prosen said, laughing. “It’s amazing. The teachers are impressed with how quickly they are learning math skills.”

The students sell their products out of their classroom, on the playground and at school events. They also receive orders via social media. The students hope to expand their customer base globally through their websites.

The fifth-graders said students at the school are their top customers, so they have adapted their product lines to meet their preferences. Their busiest production time was during holiday season.

The money the students make is reinvested into the school and is used by the students to engage in philanthropy, according to EdCorps. Korder said they are still deciding which nonprofit to donate a portion of their funds to.

The businesses had made more than $900 combined as of March 20. Each class has its business’ first dollar framed.

To reach North View reporter Kailyn Brown, call 702-387-5233 or email kbrown@viewnews.com. Follow her on Twitter: @KailynHype.

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