The children on the covered play court behind Chester Taylor Elementary School were having a blast.
They were learning the ins and outs of business without even realizing it.
As the kids made their way from station to station, they could earn money by asking questions.
They could then spend their earnings on games of chance to win prizes.
Of course, the money was paper money, and the prizes were things like candy, tiny balls and pencils — but the experience gave kids a chance to interact with area businesses, learn a bit about their operations and have some fun at the same time.
The event’s main goal was to pave the way for elementary school children to develop a greater interest in business, said Rene Martinez, a teacher at Weightman Middle School in Wesley Chapel.
Martinez, Gregg Clapp and Ryan Prieto, all serve as advisors to the Future Business Leaders of America chapter, which meets as a club at Weightman Middle.
Chester Taylor Elementary, in Zephyrhills, was just one of the elementary schools included in the American Enterprise Project organized by the Weightman Middle School chapter.
Other schools they included were Wesley Chapel Elementary, Seven Oaks Elementary, Double Branch Elementary and New River Elementary.
By the time they’d finished their rounds, thousands of children in nearly 75 classes had the opportunity to learn about local businesses and have some fun.
“Every year, each FBLA chapter has to do something called the American Business Enterprise. And the kids have to come up with a theme and an idea and put it together and organize it,” Martinez said.
“Right now, Weightman Middle School is the only middle school in Pasco County that has an FBLA chapter. It’s our first year. We’re really small,” Martinez said.
Chapter members were wondering how they could expand, and they came up with the idea of reaching out to elementary schools, Martinez said.
Prieto, a student at Pasco-Hernando State College, was involved in FBLA at Wesley Chapel High and he saw the need to get more students involved at the middle school level, Martinez said.
The club came up with the idea of using the game Monopoly as a model, and filling each of the spaces with a local business.
The kids would make their way around the board, spending money at the various stops.
Their aims were a bit ambitious, Martinez said.
“There’s 22 squares on a Monopoly board. Do you what it’s like to get 22 businesses?” Martinez said.
But he admires their optimism.
“That’s the beauty of children. They reach for the moon. They really do.”
They didn’t get 22 business, but they did get Sagat Computer Inc., Parks Fiat of Wesley Chapel, Hyundai of Wesley Chapel, Wesley Chapel Nissan, Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, Busch Gardens, Pilote Bank and Bright House.
The FBLA members also experienced something that businesses encounter all of the time, Martinez said. If one plan doesn’t work, you come up with another one.
“This is real-world stuff,” said Martinez, who teaches sixth-grade World History.
Crystal Enger was there from Wesley Chapel Nissan, showing off a black 370Z Nissan.
The kids lined up for a turn to sit inside the car.
As they waited for their turn, they asked questions. “Does that have a lot of torque?” one student wanted to know. “How much horsepower does it have?” asked another.
Enger was clearly enjoying herself.
“I think it’s nice,” she said. It gives students a chance “to think about things they’ve never thought about before,” she said.
Seth Raigoza, a member of Weightman’s FBLA chapter, said he was having a good time.
“The kids get to play games and to hear about business.”
Published January 21, 2015