Riley

York Middle School eighth-grader Riley Clark readies the school’s laser engraver/cutter for the next project. Clark is a YMS Manufacturing and Entrepreneurship class student.

YORK—A class of York Middle School eighth-graders are testing their entrepreneurship skills and applying them to the real world as part of the school’s Manufacturing and Entrepreneurship class.

The multidisciplinary class requires students to formulate a business idea and product, create a business logo, research and incorporate customer feedback, select materials and implement advertising and marketing. Another requirement is for the students to develop a “pitch,” touting their product to potential customers. “You can tell they’re nervous speaking in front of different businesses and adults,” said Kelly Fike, class co-teacher. “Those are skills they’re going to have to use in real life.”

Because of the many facets of the Manufacturing and Entrepreneurship class, the class format is fairly freestyle, Fike said. “This is definitely not a structured environment.” Fike and co-teacher Stephen Sautter notice some students take to the lack of structure more than others. “They find something they’re really passionate about,” Sautter said. “It’s pretty neat to see some of those kids blossom more than in a traditional classroom.”

Part of the students’ activities include creating plaques for York Public Schools-hosted extracurricular events, such as tennis invitationals and softball tournaments – a total of about 40 plaques are created, Sautter said. Student-run businesses Ark Vinyls and Coaster Cups utilize a laser machine – a Universal Laser System -- for their products, but other endeavors include bracelets and origami paper claws. Income goes back into the class’s operating costs. “Long term we’re hoping to sustain with whatever the kids bring in,” Sautter said. Many of the orders come from the class’s store on Shopify.

This is the fourth round of the semester-long class, which usually consists of 8-15 students. Larger classes can be hectic, the teachers said, but that in itself can be a learning experience. “It really helps develop that sense of awareness; it forces them to self-evaluate what they’re doing with their time,” Sautter said.

Students have even more opportunities when summer rolls around and the school’s EntrepreneurShip Investigation (ESI) Camp commences. “Something the public and school have done a great job at is exposing kids to entrepreneurship opportunities – it keeps kids creative, and keeps them here,” Sautter said. “There have been several businesses in town who have been customers,” Fike added.

With every semester-long class, Fike and Sautter said they often learn along with their students and as a class find fresh ideas around every corner. “It keeps evolving as we think about new things,” Sautter said.

Cups

“Coaster Cups” – a York Middle School student-run business -- makes custom-engraved coasters as part of YMS Manufacturing and Entrepreneurship class.

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