If you were to learn that students at the Elementary Campus spend their school days learning about reading, writing, and arithmetic, you would probably not be surprised. But if someone were to tell you that these same students are learning about supply and demand, marketing, product development, or sales strategies, you may very well be surprised.

Since 1999, the students at Elementary Campus have been doing just that! Through the Student Enterprise program or S.T.E.P. at the University of Cincinnati, “Tradetown,” a nontraditional educational tool, has grown from a small experiment to an enterprise that is the model example of a school-based market system. It teaches young people about the dynamics of capitalism and provides them with practical business skills.

  • Among the 40 schools in Greater Cincinnati with which S.T.E.P. works, Cincinnati Christian Schools was the first, and according to Dr. Val Krugh, Student Enterprise Program Director, “is the lighthouse, the model program for others to emulate.” It is because of the success that CCS has experienced that provided Dr. Krugh, a former Elementary Campus Principal, the opportunity to now direct this program across the Tri-State area.
  • You may also be surprised to learn that all of this happened because God arranged quite an amazing connection. Mr. Ron Klink, who had just moved from Seattle, Washington, was new to UC and looking for a school to launch a local pilot program. He just happened to be the next-door neighbor of a CCS student. Before long, Mr. Klink and Dr. Krugh worked together to develop a system where each grade creates a business to run:
    • taking it from the beginning by selecting a product,
    • to manufacturing the product,
    • to create an advertising strategy,
    • then sending it to market.

“Any student could tell you the products that each grade is selling,” Krugh says. Throughout the school year, each class will bring their product to the CCS “Cougar Mall,” a CCS marketplace where students buy and sell their goods. Students use “Cougar cash” as the official currency. They can earn this in a variety of ways, including inviting parents to shop at the “Cougar Mall” with them.

In addition to the wonderful lessons, students have learned about markets, and several other significant traditions have grown from this process. A “Tradetown” government is created, where a Mayor, Vice Mayor, and other officers are elected.

Also, service-learning has been incorporated as things such as canned food drives have been developed as a way for students to supplement their “Cougar cash.” Furthermore, since all students from Kindergarten through the 6th grade participate, numerous mentoring opportunities present themselves annually.

You can only imagine the creativity and excitement that is generated at all grade levels! Although the students do not earn a grade, per se, for this incredible experience, it is, without a doubt, priceless!