LTS Middle School Explores Business Innovation in the Area
While students in Long Trail's high school were taking semester exams, the 75 students in the middle school were on the road to learn about local businesses. Equipped with a newly learned list of terminology and some sense of the process of taking a product from conception to market, these students spent three days traveling to local companies, with an emphasis on manufacturers. Tours of Orvis, JK Adams, Hubbardton Forge, Bennington Potters, Manchester Wood, Mack Molding, Authentic Design and Battenkill Creamery gave students important opportunities to see companies in action behind the scenes. They saw fly rods being assembled by hand and cutting boards shaped and sanded following specifications programmed into computerized equipment. As student Ben S announced at morning meeting, "We got to taste samples at Battenkill Creamery!"
Information sessions with design teams and company heads allowed students to learn about corporate decision making and market opportunities. Teacher and project planner Annie Vickery noted, "The business leaders that my group spoke with emphasized the value of building relationships with other local business leaders, customers, and vendors. This observation combined with seeing the various disciplines - art, math, science, writing, and communication - work in concert with each other within professional positions is so important to our students' understanding of successful business and community models."
The fourth day of the school project was devoted to utilizing this newly acquired knowledge. Students were given time to innovate and collaborate in product creation, developing a marketing strategy and sales pitch for investors. Ultimately, the student groups presented their product idea to a panel of pseudo-investors, much like the format of the popular television show Shark Tank. As one of the project planners, Dean of Faculty Jim Gedney commented, "There is so much for our students to learn from getting out of the classroom and going to meet local business people. They get a chance to do authentic research, practice communicating with adults in a daytime environment other than school, and become knowledgeable regarding how our local economy works. This is project-based, experiential learning at its best."