ST. GEORGE – Instead of spending their first day of summer vacation in front of TVs or swimming, dozens of fourth-graders from St. George Elementary School piled into their parents’ vans, carrying laundry hampers full of nonperishable food to restock Kankakee County’s blessing boxes Monday.

It was the end of a three-week economics lesson in which students created a pencil company they used to help those in need of food.

“I think it was pretty good,” fourth-grader Tyler Leitelt said. “We made a lot of profit, which buys a lot of food for people who are less fortunate.”

LeighAnn Delabre and Kristi Haas’ fourth-grade classes created the Sharpen Up pencil company as part of the school’s interactive economic standards course.

During the final three weeks of school, they assigned each other jobs; constructed a business plan; ran a marketing department; designed flyers, posters and a commercial; and created unique pencils they sold to fellow St. George students.

“These kiddos did everything a real world company would do from marketing and producing pencils to selling pencils and making a profit,” Delabre said.

Students valued the hands-on, job-like lesson.

“It can help us get ready for the real world as we get older,” fourth-grader Cassie Wilson said. “I feel like doing things for ourselves is more helpful than them just giving us books and telling us to do this and find the answer.”

“I thought it was pretty good for learning economics because we actually got to do economics,” added Leitelt, who worked in the company’s sales department. “Basically, it was a job.”

During the past 13 years, St. George’s fourth-grade classes have donated their profits to help the school purchase supplies. This year, however, the classes used their $355 profit to buy food for the Blessing Boxes.

“We’ve talked a lot this year about what a citizen is and what a citizen does, as well as how people can influence communities,” Delabre said. “The kids thought we should connect those things together. They decided to help people in need.”

If past experience is any indication, this year’s fourth-grade students will remember this lesson for many years to come.

“These children will remember this forever,” Delabre said. “We have had kids come back to us and write college essays about their chance to do this. That’s what we want. We want to give them real world experience and have fun learning.”

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