The Entrepreneurship and Tzedaka Project was completed by all 5th grade students at HAFTR, and taught students the collaborative and creative skills of today's startup world, while solidifying the concept of giving back to the community through the power of Tzedaka.
The Entrepreneurship and Tzedaka Project was the product of the realization that too often the Judaic concept being learned is not solidified if done out of the context of normal practice. The specific concept that we sought to solidify and focus on was the Jewish foundation of Tzedaka. Real Tzedaka is turning one’s own profit into another’s great fortune. The only true internalization of the power that it takes to become a serious financial supporter of the less-fortunate is to go through the experience on one’s own – to build and amass wealth as a product of one’s own hard work and investment of resources, and then to literally give it away.
At the same time, the changing technological world around us is full of the entrepreneurial spirit, and many an entrepreneur caught the bug that led them to success at a young age. The ultimate goal was two-fold – to teach students about the new opportunities of the startup world, while experiencing the power of investing one’s own profit into the community as Tzedaka. This project was completed over the course of the year, primarily within STEM classes, for a total of about 15 periods (40 minutes each).
The first component of the Entrepreneurship Project was the entrepreneurial skills necessary to succeed as a startup, including being creative and collaborative. This included:
- Brainstorming for an original solution to a common problem. The brainstorming process is done in groups, and each group is asked to come up with 3 solid ideas and solutions to commonly faced problems that they can create and build out. (See link below)
- Narrowing down the ideas to one. Through a process of checks and balances, each group narrowed down their ideas to one final idea to focus on. The process of checks and balances included taking into account the “target market”, i.e. do many people face this issue, “competition”, i.e. do others already offer this solution, and “risk”, i.e. is the investment too large to gain back and make a profit.
- Creating a budget – cost, profit and loss. After completing an exercise in the basics of costs, profit and loss, each group created a collaborative budget in Google Sheets, with group members researching and entering actual cost of parts, using formulas to automate the sums, and to show total cost of the item. At this point, each group must create a target sales price, based on the total actual cost, and seek to create a profit while avoiding a loss.
- Create a marketing advertisement. Each group create a collaborative print advertisement using Google Drawings, attempting to explain to the average consumer why this product will solve their common problem, and how to go about purchasing it. The advertisement needed to include minimal text and appropriate balance of copy vs. visuals, but not skip out on vitals such as contact info.
- Market research. Groups were encouraged to create a brief questionnaire for their peers, and to conduct market research outside of class, so that they could narrow down specific details for their product, i.e. most desirable color, practical size, external finishing, etc. Through asking their target market what they actually wanted, they could seek to eliminate failures and overstocking in advance.
At this point in the project, students have fully invested themselves into their own original product or idea, and are eager to see the fruits of their labor. It is at this critical juncture that they were introduced to the second component of the Entrepreneurship Project – the Tzedaka component. This is the prime opportunity to fully appreciate the power of Tzedaka, as it morphs the giver into a bigger person. Students are directed to http://www.israelgives.org/, which is an online database for non-profit organizations in Israel. Students were tasked with being creative about their Tzedaka: Now that they have created a successful product, they will connect through that product to the concept of Tzedaka. For example, a group that created a robotic backpack for students that cannot carry their own backpack in the halls is encouraged to find a Tzedaka organization that distributed school supplies to the needy. Each group used the search tool at the Israel Gives website to identify a Tzedaka that fit with their own entrepreneurial milestone. The groups researched details about their Tzedaka, learning that Tzedaka is a personal journey that takes sacrifice and investment. The groups new the locations of their Tzedaka organizations activities, how many people they directly affected, and how they could contact the organization if the need arises. Each group needed to explain why they had chosen this specific organization as the focus of their Tzedaka.
Students got to feel, to a degree, what it means to invest oneself in hard work, but to always remember that one is an individual among their people. While they endeavor to become successful as an individual, ultimately their success lies with the well-being of all individuals among their nation.
As a culmination of the project, parents and grandparents were invited to an event marking the end of the project, and created tri-fold boards displaying all the above components while making a pitch on behalf of their newfound partner Tzedaka organizations. All boards and presentations were done in one large room, allowing students to see their peers’ work as well. Examples of students’ final presentations can be seen here, here and here.
Mr. Benjamin Gross is the CTO of HAFTR, and the visionary behind the advanced STEM education that is taking place at HAFTR - one of the strongest STEM education programs among Jewish day schools today. He has spearheaded campaigns to build state-of-the-art STEM facilities in each division of the school, as well as partnering with UJA, CIJE and other organizations to further STEM education in all Jewish day schools. He is currently a doctoral candidate at Hoftsra University in Educational Policy and Leadership.
Rabbi Baruch Noy is the STEM Curriculum coordinator at HAFTR, overseeing the educational content and continuity between the divisions of the school. He teaches all 4th and 5th grade STEM classes, teaching around 170 students per year. In addition, he coordinates STEM integration into other classrooms in collaboration with teachers of other subjects, in both Judaic and General Studies. Rabbi Noy hold a Master's Degree in Education, focusing on Curriculum and Instruction, from California State University, completed while living and teaching in Silicon Valley.