By Rosemary Horvath Correspondent
The Gymnasium at Clare High School resembled a crowded mall at Christmas.
Pairs of high school partnerships dreamed up products they manufactured, marketed and sold at 31 miniature shops for the annual CHS Bartering Bonanza, a service learning project designed to teach entrepreneurial skills and being contributing citizens of society, explained Debbie Loesel.
She and Jann Cleary, both business education teachers, lay out the ground rules for Computer Tech 1 students every year then step aside to observe as ingenuity and the American spirit flourish.
Students repurpose materials to build such items as paper toy paragliders, marble spinners, duct tape headbands, Angry Bird sling shots, and golf ball spinning toys.
Pintsize discriminating consumers poured in from the primary and middle schools loaded with bags of merchandise they brought to convert into paper money and purchasing power.
High schoolers at the so-called finance center accepted merchandise that included socks, gloves, paper products, and toiletries that were boxed up at a makeshift loading dock – also managed by teens — and prepared for distribution to Clare County families during the holiday season.
Students Jacob Fair and Rebecca Delecki put funny faces on ordinary rocks for their “Rock-It” trinkets. They see themselves one day in the business field. He in the family salvage business and she in the fashion and art industry. They agreed the bartering event was a good learning experience on how to market and produce goods, especially when “selling to little kids,” Delecki said. “Your product has to be appealing to your audience.”
Michael Cross and Zach Bowers repurposed CDs into spinning tops using marbles and plastic bottle caps topped with colored prints. The experience gave them an idea of one day going into business.
Jerry Medford and Mitch Hilyard built Operation Flying Fun. They turned plastic bags, fishing line and toy military figures into paragliders and parachutes. Medford liked the idea of parachutes, thinking of a cousin in the Air Force who teaches paragliding.
Cleary said students learn how hard it is to run a business even if you have a good idea. During the six-week session, students concentrate on setting prices, supply and demand and talking about aspects of customer service.
“They all have stories about customer service,” she said. “They learn what it is like to be stressed out.”
The annual Bartering Bonanza is truly a district-wide experience. Participants are students, paraprofessionals, custodians, and bus drivers. “Everyone helps,” she said.