We finished our Proud Mary river boat trip last Friday, but not before we visited the tiny town of Mypolonga. This little settlement on the bank of the lower Murray River. has a population of only about 300 people. It was surveyed in 1915 and its name comes from an Aboriginal name meaning Cliff Lookout Place.
Not far away is the very scenic Reedy Creek Gorge. When it rains, the creek has a strong current and water falls over a series of cascades. When we visited, it was calm and serene.
Although only a small town, Mypolonga has one of the most innovative and effective student programs in its little primary school of around 125 students. In 1994 the students decided to start a school shop to raise money to buy computers. It has now blossomed into a thriving business venture. The kids at this school (Grades 1 to 7) are aged only between 5 and 12 years of age, They run the entire business taking taking all responsibility for stock, income and expenses.
When we arrived at the school on the Proud Mary bus (it was actually a ‘coach’ because kit had a toilet), we were met by three of the students who introduced themselves and very confidently invited us to visit their school and its shop. We looked over their abundant vegetable garden and chook pen from which the eggs are used in the school cooking classes.
The School Shop originally started in the disused Post Office across the road from the school. It then sold student made crafts, but the kids quickly realised that when a bus tour from the Proud Mary arrives each Friday, they needed to source high quality, locally made crafts for sale. (There are many grandmas on the boat who are eager to buy things for their grandchildren).
They now sell handicrafts, local produce and other crafts, taking 20% commission. Each class also makes their own items for sale. The Junior Primary class makes book marks, the Lower Middle Primary makes fridge magnets, the Middle Primary makes recipe books and the Upper Primary makes chocolate coated apricots and home made lemon cordial. The cordial is a great thirst quencher at only 50c per cup. I went back for a second!
Their involvement in the shop allows the students to learn many life skills – how to handle money, the maths involved in giving change and calculating commission on goods sold, as well as the interpersonal skills and confidence needed to communicate with others including adults. It also takes considerable leadership skills to organise and run each part of the business.
This is a remarkable program and a model for other schools. With a turnover of $15 000 per year and over 30 consignors, the students have to work hard to run this very dynamic business.
Congratulations to the teachers and staff of the school for providing such an innovative learning experience. I’m sure that we will see more successful young people in the world because of the experience that the students get from this venture.
This video from the Australian Government’s Securities and investment Comission’s website tells more about this wonderful school program.