As more and more experts argue that K-12 education is losing touch with the world it’s preparing kids to enter, some schools and non-profits are working harder to bridge the gap.
Take, for instance, the Partnership for Innovation in Education (PIE), run out of Cincinnati, Ohio. “PIE provides our K-12 students with real-world STEM learning opportunities, learning tools to enter the future, and resources to promote hands on career exploration,” says PIE CEO Mary Welsh Schlueter. “We provide a dynamic curriculum with authentic experiences enabling schools to become incubators and engines of growth for our communities.”

PIE sets up partnerships between schools and businesses to create opportunities for students to:

  • Test fabrics in order to develop an athletic wrap that wicks away moisture as part of a partnership with 3M
  • Study the acoustics of a music hall
  • Design an album cover and marketing plan for an upcoming album by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra
  • Analyze production cost and popularity data to create a new gelato flavor for a local ice cream shop
  • Perform market research through taste-testing trials and surveys for a local bakery

And this isn’t just for the kids. As the owner of the BonBonerie bakery noted “[working with the elementary students] shortened my research and development phase, and added a large population to my sampling. This visit on Friday from the students at Hyde Park School will shorten my time to market significantly.”
Partnerships and projects like these help students learn entrepreneurial skills while studying math, science, and engineering. Ultimately, these ties to real-world problem solving and exposure to the types of dilemmas business owners face can accelerate students’ ability to start their own ventures.
Consider some of these young entrepreneurs as examples:
14-year old Robert Nay started his own company, NayGames, after he invented the popular app “BubbleBall.” How did he do it? After coming up with a simple idea, Robert went to the library and checked out a few books about writing computer code. He taught himself enough to produce the game after about a month.

Teenage chef Lizzie Marie started selling healthy snacks at a local farmer’s market to help pay her share of horse riding lessons. She was so successful that she turned her passion for food into a popular blog and video series, which is featured on WebMD. She has won several grants and honors for her projects.

Leanna Archer started her company, Leanna’s Hair, to provide organic hair care products to internet customers. Her homemade products led to over $100,000 in revenues in 2010 and has continued to grow from there. She told CNN Money that the key to success is being unafraid to make mistakes.
It makes you wonder: What is your school doing to help students find the intersection of their talents and passions? What are you doing to help them develop the skills to turn their passion and talent into a successful business or career? How can students as young as 5 or 6 build the skills they will need to be entrepreneurs when they grow up…or maybe even before then?