Mountain First Graders Show Entrepreneurial Spirit

Mountain teacher Scott Johnson’s students with bags they sold to raise money for Heifer International and Self Help Inc., and hold up a check they presented to Self Help Executive Director Maura Taylor. Courtesy photo
Los Alamos Daily Post
They may only be first-graders but Mountain Elementary School teacher Scott Johnson’s students are already entrepreneurs and philanthropists.
In an email to the Los Alamos Daily Post, Johnson explained that last year his class founded a business to earn profits to donate to charities. He said $350 was given to Heifer International, an organization that assists small-scale farmers and works to end world hunger and poverty. Additionally, $280 was given to Self Help, Inc. in Los Alamos.
Johnson explained that student teacher Branden Wilman-Kozimor designed the project.
“Here is an explanation of the project from Branden Wilman-Kozimor their student teacher: ‘…We have been working on a project in Mr. Johnson’s class that incorporates first grade social studies (economic strand), math (counting money, telling time, solving problems involving addition and subtraction), and ELA (grammar, comprehension and collaboration, writing explanatory text, vocabulary),” Johnson said. “The students have been learning the basics about the impact of economic systems by focusing on wants versus needs and by starting their own classroom business, ‘BunBun Bags’.”
The logo used on the ‘BunBun Bags’. Courtesy photo
Johnson said the class read books about children in developing countries who started businesses with one farm animal and learned to save money and expand their business to buy things for their family and pay to go to school.
“We then brainstormed and created product sketches of items that they, as first graders, could make as a class to sell in their own business,”  he said in his email. “We decided that tie dying reusable bags would be a fun project that would be profitable and good for the earth. The students created logos, a business model, and learned the basics of borrowing money. They secured a loan from the PTA to purchase supplies, then tie dyed 100 reusable shopping bags in art with the help of Mrs. (Daisy) Nichols. We set up our class ‘Marketplace’ at the Halloween Carnival and in the classroom at Family Feast where they practiced selling to parents. All profits from this business will be sent to Heifer International to purchase a farm animal for a family in the developing world to start their own business, just like in the books we read at the beginning of the unit.”  
Johnson said the school’s Parent Teacher Association loaned his students the money to purchase the bag materials. The loan was repaid.
Self Help Executive Director Maura Taylor was presented with a large check.
“I think it’s so wonderful,” she said.
Taylor said a large chunk of Self Help’s budget comes from community donations and the students’ donation went to the organization’s emergency fund, which assists families financially with needs such as keeping utilities on and stopping evictions. To receive a donation from young children is especially meaningful, she said.
“It’s never too early to be a great member of a community … I think it is a great thing for kids to learn,” Taylor said.
She added that the students were in fact helping many of their peers. Taylor said in 2018, Self Help served 394 families and 965 individuals. Forty percent of those individuals were youth.
On a personal note, Taylor said Johnson was once her teacher so she said she felt the experience “came full circle.”

“We’re so thankful to Scott and the broader community. They’re essential to do the work we are able to do,” Taylor said.