As an arts teacher at Ursuline Academy in Wilmington, Delaware, Erin McNichol likes to encourage students to think outside the box and consider how art might be able to reflect or change society. For her, lessons where students take charge to create advertising campaigns around the dangers of using cellphones in cars or proper recycling procedures are the most valuable—and the most engaging.
“I really value the chance to make the curriculum relevant,” says McNichol, who is both fine arts department chair and director of innovation at Ursuline. “So, it’s no longer the teacher at the front of the room spouting ideas—it’s them. The focus is on the students and they see how their work is solving problems on a small scale, in their own community or personally.”
This merging of leadership skills, entrepreneurship, communication and art makes McNichol a natural enthusiast for the Horn Entrepreneurship program at the University of Delaware. She connected with Horn several years ago, unlocking opportunities for herself as an educator and her students.
With recent, additional support from Charlie Horn, AS75, who helped establish Horn Entrepreneurship at UD in 2012, more area educators like McNichol are able to bring the Horn Entrepreneurship curriculum to Delaware high schools through EntreX.
This fall, lessons from Horn Entrepreneurship are incorporated into classes at five Delaware high schools and one school in New Jersey. Through the newly named EntreX Lab, an advanced college level curriculum, teachers are being trained and certified to share entrepreneurship lessons and to encourage students to play with real-world application.
Youth entrepreneurship is important, says Horn, because it empowers students to solve problems and “create meaningful change.” An “entrepreneurial mindset” can benefit students whether or not they hope to one day open their own business. With it, Horn says, students develop the leadership skills to create solutions and build teams to make it all happen.
“With EntreX, for the first time, students are able to exercise their imaginations to create new solutions, build them, test them and develop the confidence to repeat the process,” Horn says. “They learn they can make a difference and learn they do not have to go through life just doing what they are told to do and expecting others to take care of them.”
The culminating experience of participating in EntreX is the Diamond Challenge, one of the largest international High School Pitch Competitions. Students, peers and mentors collaborate and brainstorm over new value propositions in the fall, and then the students in participating EntreX classrooms will be able to show off what they learned by participating in this pitch competition, held annually each April on the UD campus. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience that students can utilize as a launchpad for future internships, college applications and jobs.
In McNichol’s classroom, her students are still in the idea gathering phase, considering what daily problems they might like to fix. An important part of the process, she says, is to be comfortable with ambiguity and have a willingness to take risks.
“Entrepreneurship will keep towns and the state thriving,” McNichol says. “We’re very thankful for Horn Entrepreneurship’s programs that support high school efforts. They care about the future and these students have the vision to take on tomorrow’s challenges.”
To learn more about Horn Entrepreneurship and its programming, including EntreX and other K-12 learning opportunities, visit the Horn website.
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