The World Coffee Swirl
Four years ago I visited a student run business at another Montessori school and after witnessing the confidence and pride the children exhibited while rushing to fill their customer’s orders, I immediately knew it was something I wanted to begin here at Council Oak. The next September I asked my Upper Elementary students if they would like to open a business of their own and the World Coffee Swirl was quickly born. Little did I know how much this experience would teach all of us, especially me!
The students choose to start a monthly coffee shop where they would have menus consisting of coffee, tea, muffins, and fruit. They decided they would use the shop to help our community, the world, and to have some fun. Every year they have been able to generously donate to a non-profit organization that they researched and want to help, purchased new materials for our classroom and community, and gone on some extra, fun outings. When a child decides that they want to spend and/or donate some of their profits, they create a proposal, present it to their peers, and take a vote.
One of the things that truly surprised me was how easily we can incorporate our daily curriculum into business lessons. Children practice public speaking when they invite other classes to our shop, they work on multiplication, division, and fractions when adjusting recipes, they work on accounting when budgeting and totaling numbers, and they work on their language skills in all of their parent communications and marketing materials. The children are engaged, excited, and focused during any lesson that involves their coffee shop. Most amazing has been watching their confidence, independence, and problem-solving skills flourish.
Allowing the students to fail was one of the most challenging things for me as a teacher, but one that proved to be the most beneficial for them. One winter day, the students all agreed that they wanted to serve cups of blueberries for $1 each. Knowing that blueberries were out of season and expensive, I knew that they would lose money at this price, but I sat back and let it happen. Not only did this encourage a botany lesson, it also taught the students to pay attention to their product cost and size of the portion they served. Another month the students forgot to put creamer on their grocery list despite it being listed on all of their checklists. I watched as they realized their mistake, sprung to action, and offered the extra milk from baking as an alternate to their customers. Now instead of only being checked twice, every list is checked at least three times.
Next Friday the 27th, the students of Upper Elementary will once again be opening the World Coffee Swirl for 8:30-9 in the Before Care room and I do hope that you will stop by to check it out.