SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – The annual Beyond the Unicorn Craft Festival at Riverside Middle School Saturday, Dec. 1 was bustling with crowds right from the start. Shoppers browsed nearly 100 booths of festive holiday decorations, unique gifts, and gourmet treats. While many of the vendors were in the gymnasium, there were also vendors in the cafeteria, as well as classrooms on the other three floors of the middle school. New this year, RMS students occupied the fourth floor, offering child care and their own products and services.
The Student Market presented a dozen student businesses, created in an elective quarter-long entrepreneurship class. Their teacher, JJ Whittemore created the class after attending a financial literacy course at Champlain College in Burlington over the summer.
The Champlain Center for Financial Literacy “was designed to promote and develop financial literacy skills in K-12 students, college students, teachers, and adults, which leads to more sound decisions about spending, credit, debt, investments, and complex financial situations.” CFL primarily focuses its efforts on helping teachers create programs and classes to teach financial literacy to students in grades K-12 across the nation.
After Whittemore took the course, she was inspired to bring back some of the skills to share with her middle school students. The result was the entrepreneurship class where students had hands-on experience starting a small business. They came up with their names and products or services, designed their logo and brand, created business plans, managed money, and marketed themselves. At the conclusion of the course, the students had a structured business that they could continue to market, whether it was babysitting and dog walking or selling upcycled fashion and soaps.
Though the class had already ended, and final grades were distributed, Whittemore suggested that the students participate in the Beyond the Unicorn fair as an opportunity to share their businesses with the wider community.
Inside the Student Market, Anna was selling prints of landscape photos from Salisbury Beach in Massachusetts. Spencer and Mason of S.S. Woodworking were selling cutting boards they created from the original 1956 Riverside bleachers. Echo and Aaliyah sold sewing kits, upcycled pillows, and clothes. Petra sold upcycled fashion and Christmas ornaments, and Thomas sold unique tie-dye tee shirts. Maddison shared information about rescuing horses. She accepted donations and is working toward someday opening her own horse rescue or a career as a veterinarian. At A&A soaps, Ariana and Alyssa discussed their process for creating their own brand of soaps.
The Student Market was a unique addition to the annual craft festival, but whether the class will be offered again next year, Whittemore has her fingers crossed.