Economy watchers eager for some upbeat vibes from the retail sector would do well to drop in at Claymont Intermediate School.

Green Street Market is attracting a steady stream of customers these days -- virtually all of them buyers, not lookers. The big-ticket items are the big sellers. And no one can remember when anyone had a complaint about service or the merchandise.

In-school stores, where youngsters can purchase pencils and other supplies and, in some instances, memorabilia with the school logo, are fairly common, but this one is different in several respects. The most significant is that it is part of a themed curriculum intended to give youngsters in fourth, fifth and sixth grades a grounding in basic economics and entrepreneurship.

Since Claymont Intermediate was established three years ago, it has provided a variety of hands-on learning experiences in those areas in addition to the basic subjects found in all schools. Wilmington Trust bank, for instance, offers 

        

         

Whether you're on the staff or a customer, Green Street Market is a fun place to learn.

student savings accounts and Claymont Business Owners Association member firms teams with the school on such projects as career shadowing and mentoring.

Teacher Ronni Cohen, who established the program said that there's no trick to maintaining a high level of interest and enthusiasm with youngsters who are directly and meaningfully involved in their education. That it also mirrors real-life experiences contributes to that.

The store, for instance, is staffed by fifth- and sixth-graders who voluntarily apply for their roles. They need two teacher references and must be in good standing both academically and with the discipline code to qualify. They rotate in the various jobs and the times they are on duty. To the extent they miss any classes, they are required to make up that work.

What is significant to a visitor is the fact the youngsters are vested with full responsibility for fulfilling their store duties. Those at the check-out counter, for instance, calculate how much the customers owe and deduct it from vouchers they use to pay for purchases. The system works something like a manual version of a debit card.

The medium of exchange in the store is points. Those are earned throughout the school by all students in a sort of reverse demerit system.

Although Cohen is in the store when it is open -- an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon on selected days -- she doesn't look over the youngsters' shoulders while they are doing that, arranging displays, answering customers' questions or such. It's left pretty much up to them how they handle whatever comes up.

Even with regard to such matters as pricing, the students have a significant voice in making decisions. Early on, she explains, they catch on to the fact there is a relationship between supply and demand. "When they see that an item is popular and selling well, they decide it's priced too low," she said.

Gel pens, which write with a glossy ink, are now going for 650 points, up from 300 when they were first in stock. Halloween merchandise is marked down. A display of holiday merchandise includes plastic dreidels at 200 points and wood ones at 750, Christmas stampers at 300 and Santa key chains at 750.

Cohen explains that students who come in to shop must make personal economic decisions. They have earned the points and must relate that to how much they value items they want to acquire. "Everything in here is about decision making," she said.

If that sounds heavy, it's all a matter of perspective. The flip side is that working or shopping in Green Street Market is fun.

Phobe Rowe said that's the main reason she took the job. "We don't get paid -- not even points," she explains.

Izaiah Taylor said that working the counter "helps me with my math" but adds that what he likes most is that the school store "in a way is just like Toys 'R' Us or Shop Rite and I like to go there."

"They learn a lot and enjoy doing it and making decisions," said Karen Woicekowski, a parent volunteer.

Posted on December 5, 2001

2001. All rights reserved.

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