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How and Why to Teach Rural Entrepreneurship

Advocates say developing homegrown, youth entrepreneurs is one way to spark economic development in rural communities and small towns, and a new Rural Entrepreneurship Teaching Unit gives educators a template for teaching students about that issue.

Although the unit was created for college-age learners, it seems as if it could be adapted for middle or high school students.

Researchers at three universities—Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa; The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio; and Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Mich.—received a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to develop the curriculum.

The Rural Entrepreneurship Teaching Unit is divided into three main areas: current issues and trends in rural entrepreneurship; community analysis; and writing and presenting research. Students are required to partner with rural entrepreneurs and business leaders to do a service learning project, and the goal is to use their classroom research to enhance local businesses.

The Web site devoted to the unit appears to have almost everything (minus the local business partners) a teacher would need. It has detailed and step-by-step instructions for lessons. For example, the first section alone includes an overview of the materials, an outline for the instructor, the content needed (verbatim), a PowerPoint presentation, and an assessment.

Why is teaching entrepreneurship important for rural schools? One recent study found the majority of middle- and high-school-age students would like to stay in their rural hometowns or come back home in the future, but only one-third said adults were encouraging them to make their communities better places so that could happen. This kind of educational unit helps address that problem.

One final plus is that this unit was designed to be incorporated into a broader course. That's good for rural schools because many don't have the resources to dedicate an entire class to entrepreneurship.

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