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A Showcase of Ideas - Purdue economic education program celebrates entrepreneurial efforts of Indiana students

Students from Indiana elementary and middle schools demonstrated how they have learned to harness economic skills and innovation to create a successful business at the annual Dennis J. Weidenaar Classroom Business Enterprise (CBE) Showcase at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management in April.

The event, which was free and open to the public, recognized teachers and young entrepreneurs from Benton, Carroll, Clinton, Fountain, Montgomery, Tippecanoe, Warren, and White counties who have participated in the CBE program throughout the school year.

Students were on hand to display their products and share information about the process of starting their business, including designing, producing, marketing and selling their goods. Business experts from Purdue and local corporations offered constructive feedback, and Purdue Pete made a visit to meet the participating students.

The CBE program allows teachers in elementary and middle schools to incorporate applied business experience in their current classroom curriculum, giving their students the opportunity to learn important economic skills. Both the start-up funds provided to students and the profits they earn are in real dollars, making it a true entrepreneurial learning experience.

Classrooms receive funding, training and support from the Purdue Center for Economic Education (PCEE) which coordinates the program and the annual showcase. The Indiana Council for Economic Education also provides support, helping to extend the program across Indiana.

“What teachers like about the program is that it combines the creativity of building a product with understanding basic concepts like profit, which requires some math understanding, while also evaluating what you need to save so that you can continue the program for the next year,” says Kelly Blanchard, a professor economics and Krannert’s associate dean of undergraduate programs. “We're really big on paying it forward so that classes save at least $200 of their profit, allowing the next class to have some seed money to start their own project.”

“For me, the primary value in CBE is that my students are learning life skills in a way that they’ll remember for their whole lives,” says Barb Tilley, who teaches third grade at Mintonye Elementary in Lafayette. “My students are learning to recognize and define problems in their daily environment, strategically develop solutions to them, and work cooperatively as a team to make meaningful decisions and bring their ideas to life.”

Blanchard says those lessons will serve students well as they advance through school. “Economics is about how people make choices, and you're making a lot of choices before high school,” she says. “Students need to learn early on what kinds of criteria to include in their decision making and evaluate whether or not they were good choices to make.”

For more information on the Classroom Business Enterprise program, email or call 765-494-7956.