Walking around her middle school campus in South Dallas, Nia Modkins takes note of the garden beds, overrun by weeds rather than vegetables.
Her classmate Christopher Middleton sees the cracked blacktop, with grass growing through it, and thinks it could look so much nicer. Jose Peralta, meanwhile, notices the empty space at the end of their fields and envisions instead a relaxing place for students to practice mindfulness.
They drafted a budget and built a model of their ideal-looking campus grounds, complete with pipe-cleaner tomatoes growing in popsicle-stick planters. If everything goes their way, those fake fruits would soon be juicy, real ones – to be sold to members of the community who need better access to fresh food.
“I basically just want to help people who don’t have the option of produce in their area,” Nia explained.
The sixth-graders from D.A. Hulcy STEAM Middle School presented their pitch this weekend to a panel of judges as part of Dallas ISD’s inaugural Big Ideas Festival. Six teams from district elementary and middle schools tackled problems plaguing their school communities and pitched solutions.
The festival winners then walked away with a seed funding pledge from the district and a “makerspace makeover” for their schools.
It’s part of a broader DISD push to foster entrepreneurship among its students. Each team was mentored by a high schooler from the district’s Innovation, Design and Entrepreneurship Academy.
(L-r) Judges Jimmy Tran, Michael Ruiz, Jonathan Parker and Marisha Allen, listen intently to a pitch during the finals for the Big Idea competition at Adamson High School in Dallas, Texas on Saturday May 21, 2022. (Lawrence Jenkins / Special Contributor)
Before they made their final pitch, the students spent two days at a workshop to incubate their ideas and develop their pitches. They learned the right way to hold a microphone and how important it is to make eye contact when making a presentation.
Students discussed what it really means to be an entrepreneur. It’s “when you own your own business,” one offered up. Another elementary schooler elaborated: “When you sort of do something to either make the world a better place – or to make money.”
Arthur Kramer Elementary students wanted to create a community “caring closet” where people without houses could access weather-appropriate clothing – and connect to North Dallas nonprofits that could offer further help.
The elementary schoolers jittered before making their final pitch Saturday on an auditorium stage, where a table full of blue trophies stood as …….