SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. (AP) — Learning the ins and outs of starting a business used to be something students were not exposed to until at least high school.

Two classes of fifth-graders at High Hills Elementary School on Shaw Air Force Base recently completed a two-week project designing food trucks that would be successful in Sumter. At a final showcase last week (Dec. 20), the students were rubbing shoulders with local business leaders and fine-tuning their business models. Given today's technology and a focus on more project-based learning, the younger students are looking more like soon-to-be entrepreneurs.

Fifth-grade partner teachers Ashlee Vice and Kayla Miller came up with the idea for the interdisciplinary project that involves all four major subject areas — English, math, science and social studies — and works well with students at all learning levels, they said. For the project, the 48 students were put into 24 two-pair teams.

To start a food truck business, one of the first decisions has to be what products to sell.

To that end, Vice and Miller said they had students create a survey on what food categories would be most popular in the area.

Students from High Hills and another elementary school in Sumter School District completed the survey to have an appropriate sample size. Of 12 categories of foods in the survey, students discovered five stood out in the data — Chinese, seafood, donuts/sweets, junk food and tacos — and each team was advised to pick one of the five, to have a large customer base, Vice said.

Along the way, each team used graphic design to create a business logo and made a video commercial using online software. They also had to create an appropriately priced menu.

Buying mass quantities of food for a food truck project is a great way to learn and hone multiplying decimals, Vice said, and students even had to calculate repairs on their truck from storm damage using a math model.

"They had to interpret the model to determine how much their damage would cost," Vice said. "That involved all sorts of different math skills, but it was almost like they didn't realize they were doing math because they're thinking about it as a food truck, and they're calculating damage."

For students with special needs, a real-world application project keeps learning "relevant and tangible," which is important, Vice said. For advanced-level students, project-based learning "challenges and pushes them to go above and beyond and be innovative."

On the project's final day, Dec. 20, the 24 student teams showcased their designed truck models, business logos and commercials to area business owners and other invited "experts" for judging.

Fifth-graders Deanna Robinson and Devin Finley were business partners in creating D&D's Donut Diner for display.

Robinson recommended a Christmas donut with sprinkles to fit the season, she said. The diner's menu also included scrambled eggs and orange juice, among other items.

She said she enjoyed the project and that it involved "a lot of time and effort."

Fellow students Tyquan Belin and LaTravia Ray created a Chinese food truck. The duo created a 90-second commercial, and the menu included a special spice mix with each entre, Ray said.

Real-life food truck owner Daniel Palumbo of Kona Ice of Sumter was one of the business owners on hand to share insights and expert advice to students.

He said he was impressed the school was teaching entrepreneurial skills and how to start a business with students at such a young age.

Palumbo, an entrepreneur himself, said he started to learn at the students' ages how to operate a business from his father, who was also a small-business owner.

"This is a great idea for somebody to start any kind of business," he said. "Today, I was teaching them about the 'Three P's': product, process and people. That's the basics of all business that you need to know. If you take care of all three of those, you will have a successful business."

Receive weekly parenting tips, advice and information on family-friendly events from Momaha.com.

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.