The students were participating in the Long Trail School’s own Made in Vermont program, in which sixth, seventh and eighth graders visited several regional businesses to gain an appreciation for how the businesses operate.
“We wanted students to see how local businesses take an idea from inception – that is identifying a problem or need – through design to the creation of a product to sales and marketing, and ultimately how it gets to the consumer,” said Long Trail’s Dean of Faculty Jim Gedney. “This was a great opportunity for experiential learning in which the students received outside of the classroom context through adults in the business world.”
According to Gedney, at the conclusion of the visits students executed on their new knowledge by coming up with prototype products and pitches in the spirit of ABC’s popular Shark Tank TV show. In all, students visited eight businesses for inspiration. In addition to Mack, other participantsincluded Hubbardton Forge in Castleton, Vt.; Authentic Design in Rupert, Vt.; J.K. Adams in Dorset, Vt.; Orvis in Manchester, Vt.; Bennington Potters in Bennington, Vt.; Manchester Wood in Granville, N.Y.; and Battenkill Creamery in Salem, N.Y.
“Middle school students are at a very open place for learning as they become more sophisticated in their understanding of things, moving from being concrete to analytical thinkers and learners,” Gedney added. “It means a lot to have the response we had from local companies at this critical time in their development, and we were impressed by their willingness to take time out of their busy schedules to host us. It shows a real interest in what the kids are learning in school and a real connection to the area – and the students come away with a better understanding of opportunities in the region.”
“We are quickly approaching 100 students who have been through the Mack internship program from schools like UVM, WPI, RPI and RIT,” Somple said. “We are now seeing some students return, which is truly rewarding not only because it validates our efforts, but because we see someone turn into a promising professional and hope we played our small part.”