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Native Pathways to Education
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Lessons Taught, Lessons Learned Vol. II

School-Based Enterprises


by Gerald Sheehan
Kodiak Island Borough School District


The idea of School-Based Enterprises may help to promote long lasting and significant educational opportunities for our youth. The community has essentially been disenfran- chised in the past from the educational system, and a common goal is to bring the community and the classroom closer together. The School-Based Enterprise program seems to be a logical progression from this concept. 

It is not meant to be a "solution" in terms of school-community relationships. Rather it is meant to be one extension of a philosophy which must be carried out throughout the curriculum to be effective. We cannot expect to significantly alter and improve the ultimate effects of the educational system by only tinkering with elements within the system, such as the classroom or the curriculum. We must instead consider the relationship of the system itself to the social and cultural environment in which it operates.

A School-Based Enterprise (SBE) can be an educational experience for our youth and community which can have long lasting effects. One of the beauties of the program is the fact that much of the learning in the program is not dependent upon external curriculum requirements, nor the expertise of staff, but upon local conditions found in the village. The program does not view living in a village or local culture as a disadvantage. On the contrary it must, out of necessity, accept the local culture to succeed.

The SBE cannot be thought of as another class in the curriculum, external from the community. The program draws its breath from the community. It does this by drawing on both of the available approaches to community-based education: 1) by moving everyday life into the school; 2) by moving the classroom out into everyday life.

Prior to initiating the program, it is essential that the community knows about the program, agrees with the goals of the program, and will support the efforts of the school staff. This can be accomplished with Advisory School Board meetings, Tribal Council meetings, home visitations, and student discussions.

Ron and Suzanne Scollon in their "Axe Handle Academy" believe in preparing students for a future which we are unable to predict. In the Axe Handle Academy, "we emphasize preparation of our students for a future that we cannot know by giving them a solid understanding of their place on the earth, their place and identity in society, and the ability to listen, observe, reflect and then communicate effectively with others" (LT/LL). This is the primary goal of SBE. It is not to turn a profit. It is not necessarily to succeed in business. It is to prepare our youth for the future, and possibly to improve the quality of life in their community.


Implementing SBE in a Village School

Following is a description of how SBE could be implemented in a small village school like Karluk, where I teach. The first goal of the program is to conduct a social and economic needs analysis of the community. There are several community profiles of Karluk available already, yet each is outdated in many respects. The students would update, rewrite and expand upon the existing community profiles.

A time frame for the first goal would be something along these lines: One week to read and discuss the existing community profiles; one week to invite guest speakers to the class to speak directly to issues raised in the community profiles; one week to collect new data for an updated community profile (mostly demographic and economic information); two weeks to compile a new community profile. I expect to work with community profiles for approximately five weeks.

The key ingredients of the community profile are: 1) an accurate description and history of the community; 2) an accurate economic analysis, which reflects not only the dollars earned/spent in the community, but also the local resources and skills which may be exploited for external markets; 3) identify clearly what products and services are and are not available in the community.

Once the community profile is completed, the students are to generate a list of possible school-based enterprises. Nothing on the list should be construed as competing with existing community-based enterprises. Local leaders and community members should be invited in to share any ideas or comments they may have. The first day we work at brainstorming the list of possibilities. The students can generate ideas for SBE's and put them on the board. The second day I would invite in guest speakers, who could add to the list or comment on ideas already on the board. During the next several days we would do general feasibility studies, hopefully ending up with a list of a half-dozen or so feasible projects that we could explore in greater depth in our community as potential SBE projects.

In our class at the academy, the participants generated an extensive list of possible village SBE projects that included: tutoring services, local postcards, archival picture retrieval (frame and resale), knitted socks, knitted headbands, crocheted doilies, video/VCR rentals, puzzle/game rentals, bakery (donuts, fresh bread, biscuits, pies, cakes), student supplies, t-shirts with local logos, sport fish supplies, copier machine for the community, ice machine for the community, community laundromat, general store, housekeeping service, secretarial/typing service, contract skills, barber, wood hauling and chopping, frozen yogurt shop, pop/ice cream sales, community films and concessions, bingo and pull tabs, village newspaper, village videos, net hanging services, kayak making, Native arts and crafts, smoked fish, dried fish, berry gathering/foraging, local herbs, school photo business, tannery with local hides, planters and plants, school garden (produce and market), small engine repair, catering service, fast foods, duck and ptarmigan feathers, grocery delivery, arcade games, teen center, local tours, and deer products.

Now that the students have generated a list of possible SBE's, it is time to survey the community. The students should create the survey and decide how to do it. The goal is to get community responses on the list of S BE ideas, and give the students an idea of what may be the most realistic and appropriate enterprise to gain community support. Once the survey results are in, let the students decide which idea they will pursue as an SBE.

Next, create with the students a business plan for the SBE, using the plan in "How to Start a Village Enterprise," published by the Community Enterprise Development Corporation in Anchorage, as a guideline. Consider the following six areas in developing your business plan:

1) the kind of company and product or service;

2) the marketing plan;

3) the operations plan;

4) the financial plan;

5) community development considerations;

6) educational considerations.

Create a business plan incorporating these six considerations. The final step in the planning process is to get start-up funds for the SBE. This can be done with grants or loans from various sources, including the school board, or by having the students initiate fund-raising activities to raise the capital themselves. Keep in mind the main goal is educational, not profitability.

At the academy, some concern was brought up about evaluation. With the teacher and students forming a collaborative learning team, everyone is gaining skills and concepts that go beyond a graded curriculum. Students are learning how to learn by cooperating with others. Their learning can be measured by the achievement of the group of which they are a functioning part. Cooperation is not only the best means of teaching and learning, it is the best way to evaluate what a student is learning. 

The whole thrust of the SBE program is toward cooperative learning - between the school and community, internally between and among students and staff - the whole program is cooperative in nature. It was suggested at the workshop that to alleviate any concerns anyone may have with this you could: 1) supplement your program with commercial curriculum materials of a small business-oriented nature, such as PACE; 2) keep your school board and administration posted on your program.

In discussing SBE, I have been focusing on high school students. I believe much of the program can also be adapted to the primary and junior high school levels. A basic curriculum for Entrepreneurship Education and a School Based Enterprise Manual has been developed by the Alaska Department of Education, and an SBE resource handbook has been put together by Todd Bergman formerly of New Stuyahok that can be obtained from Ray Barnhardt at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. I believe the SBE program deserves an opportunity within our school curriculum. The program does much to build on the strengths of the rural community and minimize the weaknesses of small village schools. It teaches the students more than a pre-set package of information; it provides them with the skills of learning to be adaptable in an unknown future.

Skier Hotdogging


Ray Barnhardt

Part I * Rural School Ideals

"My Goodness, People Come and Go So Quickly Around Here"
Lance C. Blackwood

Parental Involvement in a Cross-Cultural Environment
Monte Boston

Teachers and Administrators for Rural Alaska
Claudia Caffee

The Mentor Teacher Program
Judy Charles

Building Networks
Helen Eckelman

Ideal Curriculum and Teaching Approaches for a School in Rural Alaska
Teresa McConnell

Some Observations Concerning Excellent Rural Alaskan Schools
Bob Moore

The Ideal Rural Alaska Village School
Samuel Moses

From Then To Now: The Value of Experiential Learning
Clara Carol Potterville

The Ideal School
Jane Seaton

Toward an Integrated, Nonlinear, Community-Oriented Curriculum Unit
Mary Short

A Letter from Idealogak, Alaska
Timothy Stathis

Preparing Rural Students for the Future
Michael Stockburger

The Ideal Rural School
Dawn Weyiouanna

Alternative Approaches to the High School Curriculum
Mark J. Zintek

Part II * Rural Curriculum Ideas

"Masking" the Curriculum
Irene Bowie

On Punks and Culture
Louise J. Britton

Literature to Meet the Needs of Rural Students
Debra Buchanan

Reaching the Gifted Student Via the Regular Classroom
Patricia S. Caldwell

Early Childhood Special Education in Rural Alaska
Colleen Chinn

Technically Speaking
Wayne Day

Process Learning Through the School Newspaper 
Marilyn Harmon

Glacier Bay History: A Unit in Cultural Education
David Jaynes

Principals of Technology
Brian Marsh

Here's Looking at You and Whole Language
Susan Nugent

Inside, Outside and all-Around: Learning to Read and Write
Mary L. Olsen

Science Across the Curriculum
Alice Porter

Here's Looking at You 2000 Workshop
Cheryl Severns

School-Based Enterprises
Gerald Sheehan

King Island Christmas: A Language Arts Unit
Christine Pearsall Villano

Using Student-Produced Dialogues
Michael A. Wilson

We-Search and Curriculum Integration in the Community
Sally Young

Artist's Credits



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Last modified August 18, 2006