Muskoka Montessori students become entrepreneurs, building and running their own café


What was your first job? Maybe it was something like babysitting, dog walking or cutting grass?

For many in the Erdkinder class (grades 7 and 8) at the Muskoka Montessori School, their first job is running their own business; and rather successfully, it would seem.

This week the students unveiled the new location of their café; a small hut located beside the entrance to the school that serves coffee, tea and power balls.

According to their teacher, Jeff Mann, the students were involved in every aspect of the business plan from designing and building the hut to determining what products they would sell and establishing the pricing. A classroom economy, Jeff says, is one of the pillars in Maria Montessori’s philosophy of teaching senior students.

“In the grade 7 and 8 class one of the big things Montessori talked about was preparation for adult life and specifically learning how economies work,” Jeff explained. “So the idea of making investments, spending money to make money, the idea of being willing to experiment and being prepared to fail in order to succeed, and learning by doing, is a big part of that. When doing a project like this the students have really authentic learning experiences.”

Erdkinder teacher, Jeff Mann, looks on as VP of special operations, Grace Gaughan, slides open the window to the new cafe.

The organization is set up like a real business with areas of authority being delegated amongst the students. Each of the grade 8 students has a leadership role. There are six vice presidents and one president. The VP areas of responsibility are communications, marketing, finance, farm operations, kitchen operations, and special operations.

Ava Bijl has the top job, classroom economy president. She applied, in writing, to the out-going president Sage Nakamoto and secured the position for herself. She said she never thought of herself as an entrepreneur but this experience has given her some ideas.

“It’s taught me a lot about building things and about working together with other students and having fun together,” Ava said. “It’s been a really fun experience. I didn’t think about doing anything like this last year.”

In one short month the classroom economy, which includes the café, a soup kitchen and a garden, is turning an enviable profit. Ava explains what happens to the money.

“We divide the profits into three parts,” Ava explained. “One part goes to charity. Last year we donated to  Hospice Huntsville. Another third of it goes to our end of year trip. The last third goes to whatever we think we need to make our organization better and to improve it. We reinvest that money in the business.”

Look out Mark Zuckerberg.

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  1. I can’t imagine a better grade 7/8 experience than the current Erdkinder program at Muskoka Montessori. Congratulations to the staff and students at MMS for all of their hard work and dedication. I wish the public schools would follow suit so that everyone could share in this type of learning.

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