Thomson Tales: AALEAD Flea Market

By Justin Fogata, Elementary Program Teacher
Photos Courtesy of Justin Fogata

“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which [youth can] deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”  -Paulo Freire

The 4th and 5th grade youth at Thomson Elementary recently launched their first AALEAD Flea Market.  Throughout the school year, the youth have been directly involved in the lesson planning process in an effort to encourage ownership and empowerment in their education.  After brainstorming potential experiential classroom projects, the youth mentioned their interest in starting their own businesses.  This educational venture was more than just “playing store.”  Youth split into groups and discussed the potential steps for a successful start-up business.

For the past month, the class has been hard at work; from drafting business plans to organizing inventory lists and item prices.  To tie in the concept of “one’s trash is another’s treasure,” the youth also had the opportunity to find items from home to sell in their stores. “XTSD” (Xtreme Thrift Store Deluxe), a business led by 4th graders, added toys in good condition, school supplies and comic books to their “inventory list.”  A few groups incorporated our “Earth Week” unit into their businesses, creating sellable items out of recycled materials.  “Tic Toc Shop,” established by 5th grade girls, created hand-made origami crafts, necklaces and bracelets.  “The Sugar Shack,” a business developed by a creative and resourceful group of 4th graders, brought candies and treats left over from Easter to sell in their store.  Youth assigned job responsibilities as well, including positions such as store manager, accountant, marketing executive and customer service representative.

Lisa is her store’s “accountant” – she is writing
receipts and calculating the change for Ricky.

“Marketing executives” were hard at work, creating and designing fliers on the AALEAD class computers.  Student accountants determined prices and monitored the store budget.  Customer service representatives practiced elevator speeches and sale pitches to prepare for opening day. For our official opening, the youth transformed the classroom.  Groups arranged the desks and incorporated student-made store decorations/fliers to create a true-to-life shopping experience for our 2nd and 3rd graders.  The AALEAD Flea Market ended up being a huge success.  The 2nd and 3rd graders had a blast “window shopping” and purchasing items.  The 4th and 5th graders did an amazing job, from keeping their stores clean and organized to providing excellent customer service.

Once we closed shop, our youth debriefed and reflected on their experience.  The class did not expect it to “feel like the real-thing,” and one student added “that was stressful but fun too!”  Groups felt accomplished and proud of their work, the majority of the class asking if we can open our doors one more time.  On a future Friday, the 4th and 5th graders will open and expand their business to the Kindergarten and 1st grade classes.  Youth are currently revamping their business plans and brainstorming on how to make AALEAD Flea Market 2.0 bigger and better.

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