May 29, 2024
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May 29, 2024
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Kushner Academy Fifth Graders Learn to Be Entrepreneurs

Last Wednesday evening was the culmination of a year-long entrepreneurship program at Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy (JKHA) in Livingston. Implemented three years ago by middle school Principal Ariel Levenson, the program—called TREP$, short for enTREPreneur$—sees the fifth graders through the conception, design, creation and marketing of original products.

“TREP$ is a program created by former teachers in New Jersey, designed to teach children as budding entrepreneurs who create their own businesses,” Levenson told The Jewish Link. “While the school has purchased the program from its creators, we’ve given it a JKHA spin, emphasizing tzedakah as a core component of life as a Jewish small-business owner.”

Students are asked to budget how much they will spend on supplies, and figure out how many items they would need to sell—and at what prices—in order to make a profit. Every product should be made by the student.

Levenson said that all the kids really get into the program. “There’s something magical about fifth grade as a sweet spot for this academic moment—there’s enough free choice to make it exciting and enough structure to make it doable.”

Though it was highly encouraged that all items should be priced under $3, some items were more expensive. Elisha East of Randolph, for example, took tree slices, pasted an image such as a sports team logo on them, and then varnished them. I purchased a “Shabbat Shalom” varnished tree slice for $5, which I plan to use as a trivet.

Ezra Yarmush of West Orange (full disclosure, he is my son), said that figuring out how to price his items was a fun experience. Ezra, who made 3D printed fidgets and other items, spent $22 on a spool of plastic filament. “Each item had to be priced differently because they use a different amount of plastic, but I also had to factor in how popular I thought each item would be and if people would spend the money on it.” In the end, Ezra made a profit of over $100 at the marketplace, and is still taking orders from other students a week later.

The TREP$ Marketplace was bustling at the Naomi Rosenfeld Kehillah Center at JKHA. There were Perler bead magnets, keychains with inspirational messages, and beautiful jewelry. “I got the idea from YouTube,” said Ma’ayan Kotel of Orange, who made “forever bouquets” from dyed coffee filters.

Marketing the items was also an important aspect to the project. Meir Kaplan of West Orange, who made JKHA bookmarks, had a sign that read: “There are two kinds of readers, people who use bookmarks, and monsters,” with an accompanying image showing dog ears marking the page in a book.

Not all of the products were created in the traditional sense. Annie Orbach of Livingston created “camp kits,” which consisted of zippered pencil pouches filled with letters and pens to write home from camp.

“Fifth grade is a pivotal year for students’ evolution,” Levenson said. “Seeing a project from its start early in the school year and its completion at the end of the year teaches students endurance, stamina and flexibility, as their products develop and change with more thought. It’s exciting to see them understand the value of creating an idea and sticking with it all the way through to its final fruition.”

By Talia Liben Yarmush

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