Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Bakery, Pharmacy and a Snack Shop: Microloans from Students

Last week I introduced the students in learning.21st to the idea of microloans. I was partially inspired by a blog post but mostly by a lesson my wife was doing with her 2nd graders. It is not often when a lesson can be interchangeable between 2nd graders and freshman. I started the class with a good old fashioned read-a-loud of One Hen. A short clip from a PBS Frontline episode provided a nice personal narrative of how the love of peanut butter leads to direct support of small business in the developing world. It also gave a nice overview of how microfinancing and works.

The students were asked to consider their criteria for lending money and worked in small groups to choose a person from to support. Each group had a few minutes to introduce their candidate for funding while we looked at the business profiles and saw each location in Google Earth. After the pitch, we voted via a Google Form and the top two candidates received $25 microloans.

The challenge for me is to take the lesson to the next level. There was great discussion about equity, privilege and life experience. We lent money to groups of people to causes we deemed worthy. I would like to take the lesson to the next level so please share your ideas in the comments. Other than commenting on the lender pages and sending messages I feel I am missing an opportunity to build on a great first-time lesson.

At the end of class there was a mystery donation of $20 from one student. I quickly made a additional loan to a small bakery in Samoa hoping it would maybe in some small way offset some of the recent tragedy as a result of the tsunami. The lesson clearly impacted one student all by itself, but now should I build on it to further it in for the rest?

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