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Open market

Willamette Market nets $3,600 in fundraising, providing a real world economics lesson


by: TIDINGS PHOTO: PATRICK MALEE - Parent volunteers Melinda Robinson and Kathy Walker served as bankers at the Willamette Market last week. It wasn’t yet recess time at Willamette Primary, but the playground area was buzzing. There was laughter, shouting, even the steady tunes of marimbas chugging along as a backdrop.

But the play structures were mostly empty, and behind the smiles there was a sense of serious business at hand. Fourth- and fifth-grade students were participating in the school’s first Willamette Market last Thursday morning, an event that provided both a lesson in real world economics and a total of $3,601 in fundraising for upcoming field trips to Eastern Oregon.

Students were in charge of creating and “manufacturing” their own items for the market, with offerings ranging from practical (bookmarks and headbands) to whimsical (marshmallow guns, painted “ninja stars,” silly putty). Located at the center of the market were a number of parent volunteers, who served as “bankers” to make change for children and parents alike who wanted to purchase items.

Willamette parent Melinda Robinson was one of these volunteers, and she smiled proudly when she considered what the market represented.

“It is such a great opportunity for these kids,” Robinson said. “They have to create a business plan and make their product and figure out how they’re going to market their product. ... It’s so exciting to see the energy and creativity of these kids.”

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: PATRICK MALEE - All fourth- and fifth-grade students participated in the Willamette Market, which netted $3,601 in fundraising for upcoming school field trips.

Robinson’s son, Nicholas, was so excited about putting his pencil toppers made out of pipe cleaners on the market that he couldn’t sleep the night before.

“He was thinking about the things he wanted and how he was going to sell stuff,” Robinson said. “The kids just have to get really creative, and it’s just such fun energy. They were so excited.”

The idea for the Willamette Market came from fourth-grade teacher Tina Allahverdian, who had helped coordinate the event at Stafford Primary for years before transferring over to Willamette Primary. Equal parts fundraising asset and educational tool, the market project went well beyond last Thursday’s main event. As part of the fourth- and fifth-grade economics unit, students were given three months to generate an idea, conduct market research and manufacture their items en masse to be sold at the market.

“It’s like real business,” Allahverdian said. “It’s been a lot of math too — we’ve been practicing with money, exchanging money and how do you do that, and then with all the graphing there’s been a lot of math incorporated in it. But it’s real world math, so it’s exciting to them. It’s more meaningful than just doing math out of a math book.”

Indeed, when the time came for students to put their goods on the open market, the hard economics of it all came secondary to interacting with peers and discovering what others had created.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: PATRICK MALEE - Willamette Primary fifth-grader Kendall Shanklan decided to sell her skills as a nail painter at the market.

Fifth-grader Kendall Shanklan decided to market a skill, rather than an item, when she set up her nail painting booth. She had more than 40 bottles of nail polish at home, but was always more interested in painting other people’s nails rather than her own.

The idea proved successful, and when she wasn’t painting nails, Kendall stopped to admire the social aspect of the market.

“I love the market,” she said. “You get to go around and purchase other people’s products that they made and put it on your dresser, and if they come over to your house, they’re saying, ‘Hey, that’s my product! Thank you for buying it!’ ”

Fellow fifth-grader Parker Durbin, meanwhile, decided to paint gold rocks with clovers on them for good luck. Each rock also had a message inscribed on it, such as: “Dedication,” “Hard Work” or “Peace.”

“I thought of something with rocks,” Parker said. “And then I thought if someone wants luck, why not have the luck symbol and write something that has a meaning to it?”

It was the type of creative chain reaction that Allahverdian envisioned when she started the project — a chance to learn difficult subject matter while simultaneously pushing the boundaries of imagination.

“It’s really fun,” Parker said. “And you get to see the creative side of everyone.”

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: PATRICK MALEE - Fifth-grader Parker Durbin sells one of the good luck rocks he painted for the market.



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