Enterprise: A Kennedy School Year 5 Unit of Inquiry Project

Beam us up, Scotty… 

“A special invitation to Year 1, 2, 3, 4 & 6 children.

Market Day

Market Day; the kids have organised themselves in shifts for their various duties (parents are told NOT to assist), with groups taking turns onstage to advertise their products throughout

As part of the ‘Enterprise’ unit of inquiry through the theme ‘How We Organise Ourselves’, the Year 5 children have spent 6 weeks researching, designing, innovating and producing an array of unique and personalised goods to sell at unbelievable prices..”

b558389b383abf902aa8e4ba86f185e8  Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 9.13.57 am

Most pics from school albums; if anything is not ok as always someone please say the word and it’ll be gone :) I really like the top-most pic because it reminds me of something from Where’s Wally? Except it’s Where’s Math? Reading/ Writing/ Art? Learning today looks nothing like what we did on this planet decades ago. (Desks, chairs and papers are still around but the aliens are doing something else with them. Plus, there seems to be a cultural revolution going on onstage…)

Vote for Mr Sunglasses Emoji (pic from postcrom.com)

Vote Sunglasses for POTUS? (pic from postcrom.com)

“Their hard work will culminate in the Year 5 Market Day where the rest of the Kennedy School students are invited to purchase Year 5 products…. arts & craft, stress balls, key chains, bookmarks, brownies, cookies, popcorn…..”

Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 9.08.50 am Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 9.07.49 am

“Prices range from around $5 to $20 and all profits will be donated to our four house charities….”

Spoiler: The Year 5s made a cool HKD 19,800.

Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 9.08.04 am Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 9.04.34 am

A little like a reality game show. Enterprise: “Just” Your Regular Reality TV Game Show Of 9-10yr Old Entrepreneurs. Possible Sequel: What We Learned About Ourselves And Each Other?

Each child in a group of 5 comes up with HKD 60 to start. Then they do some serious brainstorming for product ideas (which go thru lots of vetting just like when you adhere to real game show rules; one of the big ones is the kids must come up with a market product that they make themselves. No buy-lower-sell-higher stuff off Amazon or Taobao. They have to manage and oversee the procuring of “raw materials” and the production process and agree on selling price. Plus marketing.)

  Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 2.29.40 pm Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 2.29.53 pm

What they use has to come from the HKD 300. Receipts have to be accounted for. Some kids took this really, really seriously – at one point someone asked if, when they borrow equipment to make the stuff, they need to allocate “rent cost” (and no it was not my kid, who was predominantly on tech, earlier on). Hang on lemme find the right emoji for that one.

There. pic frm dailymail.co.uk

pic frm dailymail.co.uk

Then the Y5s carried out market research on the rest of the Kennedy School kids. Survey results, costing, marketing and contingency plans to be presented to a Business Panel comprising school staff and parent volunteers, a week before Market:

And blazers

Kids produce org charts, and not a few took CEO or CFO roles to the tee, dressing for the part (Rockstar was very happy as IT Manager and elected to stay in school uniform)

Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 9.02.59 am

Introduce each other to Panel…

Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 9.09.33 am

Hand out namecards, distribute product samples..


..present survey results..

And here is the body language analysis on who is about to get fired.

…and run thru body language analysis on who is about to get fired by Lord Sugar.

Ok they don’t actually fire the kids, that’s there by way of saying I wouldn’t have thought 9-10yr olds already get such exposure and learning experiences. It really runs like one of the reality game shows for fledgling businesses… except this is done by kids and well they don’t get fired with dramatic music playing haha. And many kids can already speak very eloquently when they need to spontaneously field questions from the Business Panel (consider the difference between that and when we went to school and simply rattled off memorised facts)

It was one of those things where you think it’s a little school project for one of so many Units of Inquiry (and you’d be right – they have not a few units of inquiry and umpteen projects that go with, and that’s where all the reading, writing and math is, it just looks nuthin’ like Kumon). But. There’s more.

It’s a huge opportunity. To mess up. To have fights. To take a few risks. To get in front of an evaluation panel of adults – first thing in the morning on a Monday for some kids – to think on your feet as the panel ask thought-provoking questions about your business plan, and to sell, really sell, your product. It’s not easy. It’s not easy going first. And it’s not easy doing it when you’re 9 or 10. And so you get to mess up. And that’s awesome:

Hands up, how many of you adults out there wish you had had a chance to drop the ball at your Y5 Business Presentation before you discovered a fear of public speaking in front of 500 people at the Apple iPhone convention (or some other big deal equivalent)?

Me! Me! <waves hand about furiously> My “flubbed Y5 class presentation” equivalent was a preliminary round in a minor taekwondo tournament when I was 13. It was supposed to be an easy win and I threw it by going the day without bothering to eat, because I didn’t feel like it and figured I didn’t need tha-at many calories to win. And so I suited up and proceeded to….. utterly fail. My opponent beat me not by being better (neither of us scored and it came down to judging) but by showing more respect for the task.

No one else remembers that fight today, but I do. Through countless future situations, the humiliation of that defeat taught me a lesson I would not have learnt if I won everything regardless of effort. (So this really is the best time to mess up!) Because if school life is supposed to prepare you for real life then getting an A from 2 minutes of effort is like death to your future self’s motivation levels to work hard someday. The goal in life is not “all As in class”, the goal in life is to not die from complacence and so I have this half baked idea how winning without trying for older kids is one of those “understated risks” that the proverbial market hasn’t priced in to your trading price. (Umm, ok a better analogy than that – the recent movie “Gifted”. Awesome acting but mess of misdirection in storyline aside, Rockstar commented that before Mackenzie Grace can do all that cool rocket science math, someone still has to teach it to her and she has to practice it. She might enjoy it more than others, but she still has to work.

Anyway, here’s a more interesting side story – Bus Buddies!

Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 9.11.12 am Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 2.30.13 pm

Rockstar, like the other Year 5s, has had a Year 1 “Bus Buddy” assigned to him since the beginning of the year, a minor kind of “Rite of Passage” for the older child, to have the responsibility of a younger child new to school to walk to the bus, work with on reading, and many other various projects.

In the course of school duties, Rockstar began telling Little Bus Buddy about the Y5 project, and how his team might get early samples to their bus buddies as a kind of preliminary marketing exercise, “Tell your friends you got this from the Flying Fluffers, come find us on Market Day!” Plus, their bus buddies would get a sneak preview. (Rockstar himself was once a very shy Year 1, entering primary school as the youngest in his year. While he has only good memories of his then-Y5 Bus Buddy sitting and reading with him, what he seems to enjoy even more is the current pairing where he is the older child – he became very fond of the little boy he was assigned. We often hear a lot about this kid whom, btw, aside from knowing what he looks like, we have no idea who he is :D)

As production runs and surveys carried on however, it became clear his team had a good chance of selling out without budgeting for additional marketing, and as the proceeds would all go to charity (teams were also given the option of taking back their HKD 60-per-child capital once they made a profit, but they had unanimously agreed to donate all their capital as well) it was a collective team decision not to hand out free samples after all. They wanted every product unit to sell on the day.

Reluctantly, Rockstar then explained this to LBB, that they would have to honour what his team collectively agreed upon (Rockstar being Rockstar it would not cross his mind to smuggle one out for LBB haha). When I asked him how LBB took it, he remarked the younger child had probably forgotten all about it by now – LBB had appeared non-plussed, quickly moving on as usual to his all-time favourite topic – airplanes!

Maybe a week after their conversation however, a mildly amazed Rockstar would come home from Market and tell me that LBB had showed up at the stall maybe 4 minutes after selling began – then paid HKD 15 to buy the sample Rockstar had initially pledged to give him. (Green, LBB’s favourite colour. Haphazardly made, with bits of wool sticking out unevenly, because Rockstar had only just learnt how to make them)… which left him all of HKD 5 out of his HKD 20 market spending money to go get some popcorn (which I hear was also hugely popular – because of the catchy stripy packaging, as people walked through the hall, the stripy bags could be seen everywhere -that was the popcorn group’s clever advertising :) ) Now go back and look at the market photo at the start of this post. I’m not even sure I can find Rockstar’s team’s stall in there. LBB must’ve made a beeline for it. LBB btw, is five years old.

Don’t Ever Think Little Kids Can’t Do Something Powerful And Amazing For Your Bigger Kid.

Throughout the 90 minutes market session various familiar little faces from his and his team mates’ Bus and Play Buddies volunteer sessions would appear. As part of the “Game Show Rules”, there is a strict “no parental or Y5 reciprocal buying” rule. (Parents are also specifically told not to help them with any stall setup or etc so if your younger kid appears to be getting used to everything being done for them at home, fair warning, better let ’em start practicing doing things for themselves now :) ) The Year 5s are supposed to campaign, advertise, and sell to kids in the other year bands. This makes them pretty much beholden to the rest of the school (that’s like, 750 other kids, roughly 150 of which are older in Y6), most of whom are younger kids they’ve been on the bus and around school with for their entire school life preceding.

Now, there’s a karmic lesson about doing unto others. If you would have a friend, you need to be one.

One of Rockstar’s Y5 friends from another group who has been fretting and fretting about all the other competition (like, half a dozen groups across Year 5 wanted to sell that same product) ends up with all their wares snapped up before the proverbial “halftime”. The timely release of “relevant market information” with some correlation to their product (fidget spinners happened to have been banned, the prior week…

“These toys are a fabulous support for children that suffer ADHD or have other learning disorders, to enable them to focus… …For other children these toys can do the opposite, by over stimulating them and actually causing them to fidget and not concentrate! With our children being exposed to so many external stimuli including IPads, TV and computer games, the last thing they need is more stimulation…” 

…possibly causing the spike in demand for home made stress-balls :) ) Grateful for that bit of good fortune, he “pays it forward,” then coming over to assist Rockstar in his marketing efforts.

Year 1 LBB is preceded only by one of Rockstar’s regular bus stop mates who, granted, being in Year 4 is older and found the stall in like, a heartbeat (what is it with kids these days, do they come with GPS). “My first friend there,” Rockstar remarks later. When I mention to the friend’s mum how much Rockstar had appreciated his friend dropping by, she tells me her son had been reminding her since several days earlier, and well:

“That’s what friends are for :)

And so these are the voyages of the Enterprise 😉


Rounding up the “unit (that) can be very challenging for the children in terms of their group work and social skills,” Rockstar began coming home with stories of “secret angels,” this game where the kids pick lollies with friends’ names on them, and they have to be that friend’s “secret angel” for the day. Everyone else guesses who your angel was, and who you were angel to. Rockstar thought it would be funny to say nice/ thoughtful things to everyone – but with differences in intonation, delivery or facial expression as clues to who he was really angel for. Ok, Drama School.   

See, it only looks like we’re still going to school on the same planet. 

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Little Miss Speak #86: The “Secret Language”


Abruptly, tunelessly, loudly…

Queen E: Aaair….ve-rybody needs to love cheeeeese…. be-cause cheeeese is good for yoouuuuuu…… and cheese. <switches to authoritative speaking voice> Is made from cows. 

Rockstar and I exchange looks.

Queen E: Now, eggs. AAAAIR – VERYBOD –

Rockstar: <discreetly shoots self in head with fingers>


Queen E starts drawing lines on cartoon owls printed in her notebook

Me: What are you doing?

Queen E: Giving all my owls unibrows. 

Rockstar: <quietly to me> She does not see my unibrow. She does not know I have unibrow.

Me: You don’t think Ko-ko has unibrow, do you?

Queen E: I do. Just a teeny bit.

Rockstar: She is going to bed. She is going to bed. She is going to bed. She is going to bed.


Queen E: Parmesan Cheeeeeeese!

Rockstar: <same tone> There you are, your Highnesssssssss.

Queen E: Really, Ko-ko?

Rockstar: Yeah. Didn’t say please. Like a Queen.

Queen E: In that case….. it’s not close enough to my hand <wiggles fingers>. Please <smiles winningly>

Me: Someday you two can do standup together. Until then, can you guys promise not to set each other off when there are other people around who cannot possibly be aware of the running back stories that lead up to your most current exchanges. Please?

Sparring partners, partners in crime, as changeable as the weather.

Sparring partners, partners in crime, as changeable as the weather.

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Of Mongooses And Golden Retrievers (or, Adventures in School Reading Workshop Applications)

So they can read……but can they read….?

By now Rockstar’s wrapping up Y5 at Kennedy, and Queen E will be going through all the freshie briefings for early readers next academic year onwards. I was especially interested in hearing about what reading looks like for kids who supposedly can already read f-airly proficiently.

We are told comprehension is king, and while lotsa kids can read the words, the teachers have to check whether the kids can understand what they’re reading. We’re also reminded that it’s very important the kids, especially the younger ones, see us reading actual physical books (so not many flashy screens here, a lot of it is on good ole’ traditional printed paper).

To illustrate during the talk, teachers walk through reading exercises and assessment questions with parents.

Sound easy? Here’s one:

Here's a reading passage e.g.

Here’s a reading passage

Still easy? Know all the words? Now try the questions.

school slide

Question 1 you can get straight off the text, m-aybe 2 and 3… but what about 5?

Now try this one (mercifully, the teachers read this aloud for us because otherwise there is literally one parent in the audience who can do this) on The Very Hungry Caterpillar….

This is a passage from The Very Hungry Caterpillar.... in Italian

…in Italian. (gelato! I understood gelato!)

(The point being, you can sound fairly convincing reading, without having any idea at all what the text is saying. Realising that comprehension is the goal, not difficult words per se, made me stop worrying over whether Rockstar was reading enough encyclopaedias. Insect Larvae With Eating Disorder still pretty trippy.

Couldn't resist. This is off WTFEvolution.com who is a science writer and who says this thing should run for POTUS

Couldn’t resist. This is another caterpillar off WTFEvolution.com who is a science writer and who says this thing should run for POTUS

I thought reading comprehension made post because there seem to be all these little Learn To Read English tuition places and tutor groups that randomly pop up all over the island just like the proverbial Whack-A-Mole and some of em can boast “results” via being able to read the text of higher reading levels….But yeah it’s hard to not look at an actual reading level number and think How Far Or Close Is This To 30?)

Then I also found this excerpt about Reading With Comprehension from a blog post by Queen American Mummy Blogger Heather Armstrong:

“…Leta bought a few books whose titles only someone with a Ph.D. from Harvard could decipher, and she probably finished them in the span of minutes, maybe seven. Seven minutes tops. … her sixth grade teacher pulled me aside… to tell me that there was no way Leta was comprehending what she was reading at the speed she was reading things. And she urged me to slow her down a little bit. Okay, lemme try that. …In the meantime, you go get a Golden Retriever… to stop freaking out about Squirrels.”

(Her older daughter Leta loves reading and inhales books at the speed of light, and if you think “squirrels” is intimidating, wait’ll you hear urban legend about Tina Fey’s daughter :D) Wonder if Dooce also does Battle of the Books, which Rockstar’s school has participated in for awhile and which I would’ve liked him to look at since he’s quite a voracious reader (except I then got the answer that the “cost” is too high – two lunch play times a week! 😀 So instead he chases down the books in the school library – this week he came back with one of the past B of B books which was being read in class… because he wanted to know the ending. SO I can’t ever underestimate the power of an extensive library collection either.)

Now, the Mongoose and the Cobra of the first slide was one of my favourite childhood stories, and I never figured why mongooses attack King Cobras back then. After reading the link, I still don’t completely understand why anything would go through the relative trouble of eating one (King Cobras apparently eat other snakes and prey on notably larger animals than mongooses). I did however learn that it’s “not that much trouble” for a mongoose, which has some immunity to King Cobra venom, and when consuming the entire thing the mongoose doesn’t even stop at the poison sacs because the venom is only activated by cobra saliva. (“Support your child’s research,” “Read to find out more information about a topic.”)

We get an extensive list of ideas, including having your child read the instructions on electrical appliances, reading community newspapers, biographies (Rockstar briefly checked out Markus “Notch” Persson, the Swedish inventor who created Minecraft, but has most recently been interested in Nick Vujicic who writes how helping others can build your own resilience to various stuff that can get you down, “Attitude is Altitude”), street directory navigation, discussing the differences between movie adaptations and the original novel (still working on Lord of the Rings trilogy, but honestly Rockstar first went to check out the books after Lego Sauron featured in Lego Batman :D)   

This is Notch (pic off Wikipedia.com); I don't consider him a sellout because he famously tweeted he would endorse Windows 8 for $2bio. Microsoft really gave him the $2bio.

This is Notch (pic off Wikipedia.com); I don’t consider him a sellout because he famously tweeted he would endorse Win 8 for $2bio. Microsoft really gave him the $2bio. Well Forbes says $2.5bio.

This is Nick Vujicic (pic from likesharetweet.com); limbless, he swims, surfs, and has been known to have his friends hide him in the overhead compartment of planes as a practical joke (trying doing THAT with limbs y'all)

This is Nick Vujicic (pic from likesharetweet.com); limbless, he swims, surfs, and has been known to have his friends hide him in the overhead compartment of planes as a practical joke (try doing THAT with limbs, y’all)

This is Lego Sauron (pic off Youtube); this thing is sick, when is it hitting toy stores in HK?

This is Lego Sauron (pic off Youtube); this thing is sick, when is it hitting toy stores in HK?

There are at least a few ideas that appear counter-intuitive, like “support spelling inventions,” and “If a child makes a mistake when reading aloud, don’t interrupt the reading, allow time for self-correction. If the mistake doesn’t alter the meaning, let it go.” (Thank you because without this I will likely be doing the opposite)

Therein lies the real lesson (not just to the kids, to me too :P) – kids pick up a lot more as they find their way there, and if it’s via the scenic route, they learn way more about that route, thereby bringing them to countless other destinations as well.

Anyway. Here’s how The Cosby Show’s Theo and his friend Cockroach illustrated their understanding of “Doctor J” (that’s Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, y’all) in Mark Antony’s Friends, Romans, Countrymen ;

This is the text:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest–
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men–
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

(This is the full one)

This is what Theo and Cockroach did to part of it (note faces of screen parents haha):

“..But the man so chill when they handed him the crown Caesar said ‘No, Baby’ and turned the crown down…”

Well if Mark Antony sidelined in gangsta rap I guess he would say it that way <cough>. But there’s more:

“Brutus is an honourable man,” in slightly differing contexts over the course of the speech gradually comes to mean the opposite. Which other lofty literary figure most recently used the same words to mean the exact opposite?

-pic from comicbook.com

Yeah, it was the Talking Raccoon -pic from comicbook.com

Mark Antony’s, “Brutus is an honourable man,” is Rocket Raccoon’s, “they told me you people were conceited ..but that isn’t true at all.”

Human nature and the stories that revolve around them never changed, just the language with which we tell the same stories. It’s the same insecurities within the same protagonists, except maybe now they wield electronics (thank you, Lego Batman), wands, have mutant superpowers or have blog fights (Gossip Girl is both old and new that way).

What has changed infinitely by leaps and bounds is how the stories are told…. and therefore read. Going to school today, you would probably have very different ways you can answer the same context and comprehension questions. It’s what we rely on the school for pointers for – because they monitor such changes and developments, and they find new ways to nurture that better…


Then one day, this came back. 

Hello? What's this?

Hello? What’s this?

Through the school, Rockstar has a penpal out of a primary school in China

Through the school, Rockstar has a penpal out of a primary school in China

I can’t read this, but my kid can. Apparently this is a reply letter, Rockstar says they’ve been writing to these kids in class (vetted by the school, I guess). How freaking awesome is that? 

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