In the midst of the most disruptive period in public education in recent memory, Jason Whiting chose two paths that stand out as exceptional: first, reflecting upon his practice he saw the urgency for more student agency; second, with a little support and a little inspiration, he was willing to try something entirely new: what if while learning grade 4 Math and Language his students could help even just one person?
It was a provocation both his students and he were willing to commit to. The result is Made2HelpOttawa – a social enterprise built and designed by 9-year-olds as the method and expression of learning; a business that focuses the learning on an audacious goal: helping others.
Made2HelpOttawa is a non-profit business model run by students in two grade four classes at WEJ Public School in Kanata. Made2HelpOttawa designs, produces and sells masks donating the revenue to partners like the Kanata Food Cupboard and organizations like Kiva.
- Use what we have learned in class to help others in our community and around the world.
- Use the day-to-day operations of a business to drive our learning
- Create a space for students to have input into the “how”
Students sourced materials and a business model to create various sizes of cotton masks with the school logo and Made2Help logo on them. Payments are made on schoolcashonline.com and orders are processed and delivered to each teacher after a minimum 72-hour quarantine period.
On September 21, 2020 grade four students accepted the challenge of using what they learn in school to help others in the community and around the globe.
In October 2020, we used student connections to organize Google Meets with experts in the field to help us expedite our learning. We had: Cornell MBA grad, Entrepreneur from Etsy, Podcast/Entrepreneur, Media Liaison from Kanata Food Cupboard and various experts within our school. From there we established some teams and jobs within the class and got to work!
In November 2020, students pitched an idea to the OCDSB’s Leader of Experiential Learning (Cam Jones) for funds to take the mask-selling business to another level. The result? Grade four students earned $3,000 to put towards boosting their media/content creation output.
In December 2020, students were on their way to making their 15th mask prototype when they finally found the right materials to use for the logo. After working with a teacher who has real-world experience as an entrepreneur in the same field, the students quickly learned the benefits of trial and error. It was back to the drawing board!
In January of 2021, the team knew it was time to generate a buzz with the newly designed mask. Students developed ideas for posters, public service announcements, podcasts, newsletters, commercials and even games (coded in Scratch). We needed to bump things up!
In February 2021, we got the green light to go live with our masks on schoolcashonline.com. On our first day, we sold 16 masks! Work has begun on our first batch of orders!
Making Masks to Make an Impact
Summary: Grade 4 students at W. Erskine Johnston Public School are using experiential learning to help others in their community and beyond. The students launched Made2Help, a social enterprise that designs, produces, and sells masks to donate proceeds to community partners.
Article: The grade 4 classrooms at W. Erskine Johnston Public School are bustling with activity. Students are designing masks, stamping logos, preparing orders, filming PSAs, recording podcasts, creating webpages, and meeting virtually with community partners.
It’s all part of the student-run social enterprise Made2HelpOttawa, which designs, produces, and sells masks to donate proceeds to community partners, including the Kanata Food Cupboard.
Guided by teacher Mr. Whiting, two grade 4 classes have been leading this non-profit project since the fall. They made project teams to handle everything from mask production to marketing, and tested 15 prototypes to find just the right materials. They also held virtual meetings to learn from experts like a Cornell MBA graduate and Etsy entrepreneur.
In February, the Made2Help team began selling the masks to their school community and were thrilled to sell 16 masks on their first day! They are now working on fulfilling their first order. Each cotton mask is hand-stamped with the school and Made2Help logos and quarantined for 72 hours before being delivered.
The young entrepreneurs hope that their experiential learning will help others in their community and beyond. Here’s what they had to say about the project…
What’s your favourite thing that you learned through this project?
“My favorite thing that I learned in this project is how people actually work and attract people to buy products in various ways. Another favorite thing I learned in this business is to read over my work, how to write professionally and how to deal with people politely exactly like a real business.” – Tanya
“I learned: 1. To be confident when speaking in a PSA or while giving a pitch and not to be shy. 2. To ask for advice from your classmates or team when you needed help. 3. To be focussed and do one thing at a time with all details. 4. Do your best.” – Dravya
“My favourite thing that I learned through this project is that I can now make a budget and other stuff on google sheets. This will help me in the future if I am going to start a business.” – Kyle
Tell me about a challenge you faced while working on Made2HelpOttawa. How did you solve it?
“We were having troubles making the website, and updating it. So, we kept on trying and working hard and the hard work paid off! We are so happy our work can be shown to the world!” – Tara
“When I was not able to use an app correctly a friend of mine showed me how to use it. To me this is what’s going to make our business successful, teamwork and friendship. Remember whenever you have a hard time doing something teamwork and friendship can always solve the problem.” – Vidita
How do you hope to make a difference in your community through Made2HelpOttawa?
“I hope to make a difference in the community by raising and donating money to the Kanata Food Cupboard so then people would see that and want to buy masks to donate as well. I wanted the logo to look really good so people would like to buy a mask and wear it in public. I also want people to donate to vulnerable people all over Ottawa.” – Felicia
“I love to help people when they are in need. It makes me feel really good on the inside. It feels like if I help 1 person, with the help of my friends, we might be able to help the whole world!” – Aanya
Through the learning adventure that was Made2HelpOttawa, Jason and his students discovered that the idea of “investing” – in ourselves, in our peers, in others – is a phenomenal context for learning just about anything.
The thing is, when just about anything is the framework for learning, there is an abundance of learning at your fingertips. In the case of Made2HelpOttawa, these grade 4 students extended their reach well-beyond the walls of school, into the community and beyond, in an endeavour that travels lite, and ricochets like an echo so far beyond any curriculum expectations.