A thirst for learning

By Abby Rhodes
August 5, 2011

Many an entrepreneur was behind a lemonade stand when first bitten by the business bug. But few youngsters consider concepts like supply and demand, overhead costs, or how the weather impacts purchasing trends before they set up shop.

Those factors were all part of the plan for a group of fourth- and fifth-graders participating in Bradley’s World of Wonder (WOW) summer learning program August 1-5. In an economics themed course taught by Steven Marx, the students spent several days planning for the lemonade sale, advertising the event and learning some of the cold, hard truths behind business start-ups.

“I think when most kids do a lemonade stand, their parents go out and buy the stuff for them so they don’t have the sense of what it takes to make money,” Marx said. “They now understand there’s a big difference between working for someone else and staring your own business.”

There’s no more appropriate place for this entrepreneurial spirit to blossom than in Baker Hall, the home of Bradley’s Foster College of Business Administration and the World of Wonder headquarters.  For two weeks each summer, gifted students entering first through eighth grade may choose from more than 40 WOW classes, each taught by a professional educator in a Baker Hall classroom. The classes cover the academic spectrum and feature catchy titles including “Let’s Scream for Ice Cream,” “Knights, Castles, Dragons, Oh My!” and “Frank Lloyd is All Wright!”

Jon Neidy, director of Bradley’s Institute for Gifted and Talented Youth, which orchestrates WOW, said the workshops provide area youth with a learning environment that is both challenging and supportive. “Early exposure to the university is really important for gifted students and seems to result in a very positive feeling about the college experience. They love ‘coming to college’ and we make a great effort to help them feel safe and comfortable here,” Neidy said.

The learning experience reaches beyond the youngsters. T.J. Klockenga ’12 is seeing his involvement with WOW come full circle this summer. The Metamora, Ill., native attended the workshop as a fourth- and fifth grader and now serves as a WOW student aide, helping facilitate the workshop and lending a hand in the classrooms.

“The other aides and I are seeing a lot of really effective educators applying a lot of really effective strategies that we can mimic,” said Klockenga. “We’re practicing and trying strategies out and seeing what works and what doesn’t.”

For their part, the fourth- and fifth-graders learned that effective business strategies include good customer service and “making sure you don’t run out of lemonade.” The group earned more than $84 during its 30-minute sale, money that will be used to fund WOW scholarships next summer.