On a recent afternoon at Farallone View Elementary School, students were getting down to business. Standing in front of colorful cardboard displays, some peddled their own handmade inventions, like pompom animals, unicorn treasure boxes or “gangster” slime. Others offered experiences, such as personalized self-portraits or fortune telling. 

And all of the budding entrepreneurs, plus their classmates and family members, clutched fistfuls of construction paper “money” as they roamed from booth to booth, eager to experience each other’s creations.   

Last Thursday, students at both Farallone View and Hatch Elementary School promoted their inventive products as part of “My Company Day.” The annual event, led by Workshop Education, an after-school enrichment program, has elementary school students create a company, design prototypes, manufacture products and, finally, sell them to parents and classmates.   

“They learn a variety of skills,” said Corina Outten, the Farallone View site director for Workshop Education. “Even just through the interactions (they have). Today, they’re talking with adults who are strangers.” 

The students in Workshop Education’s after-school program developed their company ideas over time, either as solo practitioners or as part of a larger group. Since the start of the year, they’ve worked hard to iterate on their projects. 

Alexa Frisbie, founder of Workshop Education, said that the program is built around “design thinking,” a methodology that promotes practical, often collaborative, solutions to real-world issues. 

“They’ve done a lot of different trials,” said Frisbie. “I think the teachers do an amazing job of encouraging that patience to keep improving and problem-solving. It’s the idea that you don’t just do it and it’s done. There’s always ways to improve it.”

Students were quick to troubleshoot problems as they arose. Fourth-graders Miya Wooden and Arevia Lanata discovered that glue guns require a delicate touch as they fashioned their own stuffed animals and pillows, or “stuffies,” out of fabric and packing peanuts. 

“I (also) learned that you have to make a lot of them or else you’re going to sell out,” added Wooden. 

Across the room, elementary schoolers Cruz Ferdinand, Makenna Glynn, Leo Dardenelle, Kate Lauritzen, Eliana Lazorick, Selvin Ortiz, Nathan DuBois and Annika Djovig drew a crowd selling “Hama” beads. 

They worked together to fashion the colorful pieces of plastic into shapes and animals like elephants and pumpkins. 

“We always make Hama beads every year,” said Ferdinand. “It’s just a good idea.” 

“They’re fun to make, and it usually pays off,” added Dardenelle. 

Some companies merged experiences with products. Students Max Fischer Goldsworthy, Nehemiah Real Martinez, Tad Costerison and Cole Dotson were serving up lemonade and apple juice — with a twist. 

Customers were either entitled to a complimentary joke from the company’s “hall of fame,” or, if they made Fischer Goldsworthy laugh with a joke of their own, the drink was free. 

“But it’s impossible (to make him laugh),” added Real Martinez. 

Beyond illustrating concepts like monetary transactions and the importance of marketing, Frisbie thinks that the annual event allows each student to leverage unique strengths. 

“Some of this is slog work, like manufacturing a lot of products; it’s a bit tedious,” she said. “But with this, the kids have to draw you in and sell you on (their product). And different team members are good at different parts of that.

“Learning is more exciting the more similar it is to real life,” she added. “Even though it’s pretend money, to them, it has meaning.”

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