HED:Itawamba AHS hosts “Teepee Toy Store”
By Errol Castens
FULTON – “Hands-on learning” took on a new meaning Thursday for 30-odd Fulton area preschoolers and for Itawamba Agricultural High School students.
The IAHS students opened their “Teepee Toy Store” in the school’s north wing classrooms.
The toy store, a project of Lori Holland’s second-year marketing class and Anne Wood’s American History students, doesn’t actually sell the toys.
Instead, it hosts children from Itawamba Community College’s Child Development Center and Fulton First Baptist Church’s Wee Care program, who tour the facility, play with the toys, and learn about Native American culture.
“The Marketing II class basically studies small business management and entrepreneurship,” Holland said.
In the toy store project, she explained, “They take everything they’ve learned in Marketing I and apply it to a hands-on activity.”
Individual students supplied some of the toys to stock the store, and the Fulton Wal-Mart furnished others.
The store project tied in with the marketing students’ current studies of store layout and design.
True to real life enterprises, the students divided work on the store. Teams concentrated on planning the grand opening, visual merchandising and advertising and publicity, along with in-house information and promotion.
Holland graded her students on creativity, participation and meeting the deadline.
“They had to make that grand opening deadline,” she said. “We stressed that a lot, because if you work in marketing and advertising you have to meet a lot of deadlines.”
American history students participated in the “Teepee Toys” theme by giving Indian names and mock weapons and tools to the visiting youngsters. They also painted their own faces and the children’s faces with war paint.
The history students’ participation coincides with their own study of local Native American culture.
Wood also emphasizes a hands-on approach to her subject.
“When we studied the Industrial Revolution, we didn’t just study it out of the book,” she said. “Our classes all had to come up with ideas for new inventions, too.”
The results ranged from crushed-Oreo cereal (“It really wasn’t very good,” admitted Tyrus Bobo) to a “smart cap” that included a pencil, note pad and cheat notes (“Kind of hard to get it approved, though,” lamented Jennifer South).
Sheryl Dunn’s child development class added depth to the toy store project with their own invention, designing a color-by-number picture book that required youngsters to work math problems before finishing the artwork.
Later, those students will go through a mock sales meeting with the marketing class, attempting to sell their product to the erstwhile store managers.
Marketing is a vocational class at IAHS, and a number of Holland’s students intend to apply what they’re learning in their eventual careers.
“Everybody said this was a fun class,” said Brandi Holder, “and it is, but it’s a lot of work, too. But this is great experience for me since I want to be in advertising.”
“I heard this was a really creative class,” said Josh Sorrels. “I wanted to learn the processes of advertising and marketing.”
Apparently, the students really are learning.
A flood of preschoolers in war paint noisily explored the store, delighting in the variety of toys and activities that their high school hosts had provided for them.
“I like the choo-choo train best,” said Nicholas Stegall, a student at ICC’s Child Development Center. Fellow student Solomon Ring preferred the stuffed gorillas he found in another area of the store.
IAHS Principal Pete McMurry praised his teachers’ and students’ creativity and drive in putting together the toy store.
“The instructors came up with the idea. We were looking at projects that integrated vocational classes with academics, and I thought this was a great idea,” he said. “They’ve taken the ball and run with it.”
The toy store isn’t the only real-life application of classwork that Holland’s students have pioneered.
They’ve also written and illustrated children’s books, learning about the marketing aspects of the publishing business as they worked.
Last year, while studying a unit on business law, some of the classes staged re-enactments of an actual murder trial.
Judge Frank Russell acted as consultant to the project, and students worked to make the exercise as true to life as possible. A uniformed bailiff kept order, Holland said, “and if you talked or laughed, you were out of the room.”
“You would think you were in a real trial,” added student Holder. “The prisoner had on the orange jail jumpsuit and everything.”
Criminal trials aren’t a normal part of business law studies, Holland allowed, “But really it was more about learning communication skills, learning how to sell themselves in front of a group.
“This is an elective class, so students don’t have to take it. But I never have to recruit,” she said. “When the kids walk by and see what we’re involved in, they’re interested.”