If you attended a public elementary school in the state of Delaware, there’s a good chance you participated in Mini-Society, a program offered by the University of Delaware’s Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship (CEEE) since 1977.
In Mini-Society, children in grades 3 to 5 design and develop their own society, creating a name, flag and currency. Students establish businesses to provide goods and services to their fellow citizens. In eight weeks, students learn real-world skills such as record keeping, maintaining a bank account and negotiating. Students also develop entrepreneurial skills through experiential learning and positive reinforcement.
This summer, CEEE hosted its 44th annual training session for seven Delaware teachers in a virtual workshop that modeled the classroom implementation of a Mini-Society. The sessions were led by Erin Boettcher, a graduate of UD’s Class of 2013 master of arts in economic education and entrepreneurship program at the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics.
As are nearly all CEEE-hosted trainings, this workshop was offered at no cost to teachers and provided them with valuable professional development credit. Funding was provided with support from M&T Bank by way of the Delaware Council on Economic Education (DCEE).
“Not every student will be a business owner/entrepreneur as an adult but chances are they will work for one so it is important that they understand the role of entrepreneurs in our society– both now and particularly in the future, and that they have an appreciation of the entrepreneurial spirit,” Bonnie Meszaros, associate director of CEEE and assistant professor of economics said.
“We continue to offer the program because it is the only one that allows students to generate their own ideas for a business by analyzing their successes and failures.”
Teachers received hands-on instruction on how to encourage their students to set up and run their own society. Teachers also received lessons to reinforce and extend economic concepts and the common core standards. For many of the attendees, it was their first introduction to CEEE professional learning.
“This particular training prepares teachers to take specific lessons back to their classrooms and it is not something that is covered in the traditional school curriculum,” Boettcher, who is a 5th grade teacher at Newark Charter, said.
“Students make their own decisions and face the consequences of their choices,” Boettcher continued. “It also teaches many of the soft skills that are frequently not covered in the regular curriculum.”
Teachers learned to identify various teachable moments that could naturally arise while students learn about demand, economic growth and equity. The culmination of this learning is Mini-Society’s Market Day where students promote their created products and sell their wares to their fellow students.
“The binder of materials and lessons are great. I feel confident that I can offer this terrific real-world experience with my students,” said Diane Bates, a teacher at Bunker Hill Elementary School, who attended the training.
“This was one of the best professional development courses I’ve participated in. I feel confident that I will be able to create a Mini-Society with my students this year,” said another attendee, Leslie Crews, a teacher with W. Reily Brown Elementary School. “I will definitely recommend this to my colleagues!”
New this year, a Mini-Society Refresher for previously trained teachers will be offered on February 22, 2021. The next three-day training for teachers new to the program is scheduled for July 19-21, 2022. Interested teachers should email Bonnie Meszaros at firstname.lastname@example.org for information.