Today was outstanding, like every day in the Philippines. We visited the top elementary school in Makati, Pembo Elementary. It, like Benignio High School focuses on STEM education. As we drove up, the school band was playing as we entered the building! This is a TREMENDOUS difference compared to how visitors are received in my school. At my school, visitors are quietly received and then given an assembly (if warranted), otherwise, they’re just shown around school with little pomp or circumstance. Even state senators or representatives aren’t given such aplomb. I felt very special, to say the least!
Then, we had the typical opening ceremony of speeches, prayer, remarks, and anthems. The prayer, this time, was sung by a student, which i thought was a wonderful spin on the whole process. We ended the day with halo halo, and discussion, after we toured the school.
This school was amazing! Like Begingio, it had an Eco Park. This one,though, went the extra mile. It had a green house roofed in 2-liter soda bottles, and a hydroponics experiment using recycled materials. Everywhere I went in this school, students were upcycling and recycling materials, trying to make their community a better place. The teachers explained that sustainability and environmental education was a focus for the Department of Education, and the city of Makati had made funds available for environmental ed. They put out competition to see who could make the most of their eco parks.
The teachers in this school, like at Benigio, use the Eco Park for their lessons. I think that’s I didn’t get a chance to see the teachers teaching in the classrooms, but I did read the reports of some of their amazing programs. One particularly astonishing program is their junior entrepreneur program called “Hands On”. Students work in teams on the weekends and after school to participating in team-building and skills-building activities. They learn how to work together as a team during each activity, while learning valuable skills about critical thinking and marketing. At the end, of the workshop, the students form teams and develop a product and business model. Then, they follow through with their business plan. At the end of their run, they were able to turn their business over to their parents to run while they moved on to 7th grade.
The thing I find truly remarkable is that these students actually followed through on their business model. I’ve participated in entrepreneur competitions in the past, and every time, the business model was theoretical. Students were judged on innovation, creativity, and feasibility of their models, but everything was kept purely hypothetical. They didn’t have to produce anything real.
I also found it fascinating that students sold their produce from the Eco Park. I’ve always wanted to teach my students to do things from a sense of duty. You do something, because it needs to be done, or it’s the right thing to do, not because you’re going to get rich off of it. But, the teachers at Pembo take a different stance. Selling the produce IS a duty. It teaches the students financial management, business acumen, and instills in them a sense of pride and purpose for the garden. It can make money that they can then use to improve the garden and buy supplies. With this logic in mind, I shall revise my thinking about a farmer’s market for my aquaponic class. I can still have a “pay what you can” policy for those who can’t make the set price, but I’ll have the students work on developing a business model for the farmer’s market, to track profits and improve our garden. Then, they’ll actually carry out their business model.