Students run profitable carnival
The Maharishi Middle School students put on a carnival for their younger peers Thursday night at the Maharishi School Assembly Hall.
Each student was responsible for a different part of the carnival. Some baked cookies. Some sold drinks. Others worked booths and still others walked throughout the hall entertaining the crowd. A few of the students took to the stage to perform in puppet shows and magic shows.
Jordan Town, 13, dressed as a clown and rode a unicycle. He had never ridden a unicycle before his math and science teacher, Barbara Hays, suggested he learn it for the carnival. That was one month ago.
Town said the unicycle was difficult to ride at first but in just a month’s time he has become proficient at it.
The carnival was entirely student-run. The students were responsible for inventing a game for their booth or learning some kind of skill to share with the public. Kai Vessey learned how to make balloon animals for the carnival.
Ellie Mason, 14, baked and designed sugar cookies. She made everything, including the frosting, from scratch.
“The hardest part of making the cookies was not eating them,” she said.
Mason said she enjoys baking and does it regularly. She said she has become much more efficient in preparing a batch of cookies in the past month because she has had considerable practice.
The students were not just at school to have a good time Thursday, although they did do that. They were being graded on their talents and on their booths. Not only that, but the students had to worry about turning a profit at the carnival.
In order to play a game or receive a snack, the young children who attended the carnival had to hand over tickets, which their parents bought for them at the front desk. If a child won the game, he or she was given a prize.
Richard Incorvia, Maharishi Middle School English and Social Studies teacher, and Barbara Hays, who teaches math and science at the school, gave the students pointers about how to run a successful carnival.
Incorvia said the students were instructed not to make their games so easy that players always won. The students designed their games so the players won about half the time, which allowed the children to have fun but which prevented the students from giving away too many prizes.
For instance, student Loreena Hansen designed a game whereby a player tossed a ball at a target, which hit the target and fell into one of several dozen plastic cups below. If the ball landed in one color cup the player won, and if it landed in a different color the player lost.
The carnival was one of many endeavors the school has undertaken in the last three years to making learning “project based.”
“Middle school is typically a difficult time for students, emotionally, physically and socially,” Incorvia said. “We wanted our kids to have the best time ever in school. We looked at the things in life that are fun, such as carnivals. And what’s really fun is having success.”
The success the students feel after learning a skill or creating a game breeds self-confidence. Incorvia said the carnival helps prepare the students for their post-academic lives when they’ll have to worry about managing revenue and expenses.
“We ended up making 20 percent profit that night,” he said. “The purpose of the project was to learn that income minus expenses equals profit. That was the big picture we wanted them to come away with.”
Other projects the students have worked on include running a restaurant, writing songs for a concert and doing an archaeological dig. In the archaeological dig, one group of students creates a culture with a set of practices and beliefs. They bury artifacts that pertain to that culture. Another group digs up the artifacts and attempts to determine what the culture was based on its artifacts.