Imaginations soared, and the end product was a diverse and complete shopping mall. The students quickly learned the real life aspects that managing a business requires. For example, students had to manage money and keep track of the cost of products, advertisements, space and signage.
"Not only does this activity meet Iowa Core standards, it also opens the students' eyes that when you finish school, you don't always have to work for someone else -- you can work for yourself," said Heerdt.
With over 17 stores at the mall, students competed against each other and experienced realistic scenarios of negotiation and partnerships. Over the course of the day, younger students came and shopped in the mall with Mav-bucks.
The SMART-mart Shopping Mall had a wide variety of stores and businesses that appealed to different demographics. Businesses included football cards, two bakeries, a crocheting service, a comic strip booth, a theater, face painting, bookmark shops, fish line knot tying service, room decorating, photography and yarn bracelets.
Laney Wilson and Sydney Jensen said the idea for their bakery, Pink Watermelon, came to them one day when they were joking around on the bus.
"We were kind of joking about starting a bakery because we both love to bake and watch the show 'Cupcake Wars.' We spent forever coming up with the name. Once we had the name and began talking about it more, we realized this was something we could do for our class project. Now, we both actually want to follow this dream when we are older, and start our own cupcake shop," Jensen said.
"The biggest thing this has taught me is that you don't always have to work for other people, you can work for yourself," said Wilson. "Also, it takes a lot of money to run a business because everything costs."
Classmate Austin Heuck's business was a shop where students could learn how to tie fishing line knots. Heuck spends his free time hunting and fishing, so having a business that incorporated his passion was exciting.
"I've watched a lot of YouTube videos on knot-tying so I wanted to show others." Heuck's main strategy for his business was to keep costs low.
He added, "I had to change my strategy throughout the day; I saw what was selling and what wasn't."
Agreeing with his classmate, Alex Jorgensen said, "When I decided to have a paper airplane business, I wanted to have something other than just planes, so I decided to sell juice, too. But when I saw how many other stores had juice, I had to change my deals to appeal to the customers."
The students had a busy week transforming their library into the shopping mall. Students created advertisements and planned financial costs for their businesses. Thursday, May 17, younger students and teachers came to the mall, and Friday, May 18, students figured their costs and profits.
"The students had to figure out gross profit as well as net profit. This experience has shown them the hard work that goes into businesses, and how to interact within the business world," said Heerdt.
Iowa Lakes Corridor is continuously looking to develop and promote K-12 entrepreneurial programming. Heerdt saw the importance of introducing students to entrepreneurship and took the time to implement a new unit into her curriculum. The Corridor hopes to continue working with teachers to develop the next generation of successful entrepreneurs and leaders by encouraging youth to pursue the creation of new ventures and apply entrepreneurship concepts in their career endeavors.