Members of Waupun Rock River Elementary School's fifth-grade Math Enrichment class are selling origami items and freeze pops to help make the school playground more handicapped-accessible. From left are class members Haley Freriks, Jordan Matoushek, Chase Beahm, Autumn Thompson and Sean Meyer.

WAUPUN — Math is more than a subject for some students at Rock River Elementary School: It is a life skill that can have huge impacts on everything from small decisions to lifetime goals.

That is exactly what students are learning in Kathy Calder’s fifth-grade Math Enrichment class. They are studying things such as the stock market and entrepreneurship to augment traditional math skills.

The class of 11 members meets early Wednesday mornings.

“I feel it is important for students to learn about running a business,” Calder said. “We recently finished a unit on the stock market and are now studying how to run a business.

“An introduction to entrepreneurship at a young age will help students understand how to start a business and possibly spark an interest in future business ownership. This unit highlights the importance of a business plan and what an entrepreneur should do to begin a business.”

The unit begins with some basic questions:

  • What goods are you going to sell?
  • Who will you sell your product to?
  • Where will you sell these goods?
  • When will you offer your product for sale?
  • Why did you choose the goods?
  • How much will your goods cost?
  • How will you get the money to begin your business?
  • How will you advertise to get customers?

Through several lessons, students became familiar with how to develop a business plan and the steps an entrepreneur should take to become a business owner. They learned finance concepts that relate to entrepreneurship. They divided into three groups: Contracts, Marketing and Graphic Design. The children choose the group they were interested in joining.

The group dubbed the business “Oripops.”

“We voted on what to sell and we chose origami and freeze pops,” said marketing group member Chase Beahm.

Origami — the Japanese art of paper folding — artworks include hundreds of items including frogs, swans, boxes and uniquely shaped hexaflexagons.

Haley Freriks is a student involved in marketing the products.

“Four of us made a video so we could tell other students about our products and the days we are going to sell them,” Freriks said. “We emailed it to all of the teachers and they showed it to all of their classes.”

She anticipates that students will put the origami items in their lockers, or display them in their homes, possibly on a Christmas tree when the next holiday season rolls around.

The first day of the two-day sale was canceled (and rescheduled) because of bad weather. On Thursday, no fellow students seemed to mind that it was below zero outside, and freeze pops sold like hot cakes.

So did all of the hand folded origami items, and class members worked hard this past weekend to replenish their stock.

Some of the freeze pops were donated to the group by school secretary Linda Smedema, but more freeze pops were also purchased.

Another sale is scheduled today. Small pops sell for 25 cents, and larger ones sell for 50 cents. Origami items sell for 50 cents each.

Beahm would not to reveal the cost of the items, adhering to the business rule that you probably shouldn’t let your customers know what your profit margin is. That was not part of Beahm’s task anyway, so that part of the equation will be revealed in a summary and analysis session yet to be held.

“We hope to make more than we spent, obviously,” Beahm said.

Profits have already been designated to a cause — helping to make the school playground more handicapped-accessible.

“There are kids who can’t do the things that other people can,” Beahm said. “This will give them something to do on the playground so they can have fun like everyone else.”

As for the future, Beahm is uncertain whether his career plans will include operating a business.

“It’s a possibility,” Beahm said.

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