Although education innovation continues to grow in Kansas City, there is a visible gap between the “school world” and the “real world,” said Greg Owsley.
“The school world and real world shouldn’t be separate entities — they should be connected,” said Owsley, STEAM director at Rockhurst High School. “It’s a very exciting time to be in the education space in Kansas City right now and what we’re trying to do is take a traditional school that’s been successful for more than 100 years and innovate from within, providing a model for other schools.”
To do this, Rockhurst High School has established a partnership with the University of Missouri-Kansas City Small Business & Technology Development Center, providing entrepreneurial mindset curriculum to its students.
The class — Entrepreneurship for Others — is a revamped version of the popular Ice House Entrepreneurship program for adults. It’s available as an elective for Rockhurst juniors and seniors and is taught by the development center’s Rebecca Gubbels.
“At Rockhurst, we want to ultimately challenge students to create solutions to solve problems and improve the community,” Owsley said. “The Entrepreneurship for Others class is just one piece of a larger education innovation movement happening within Rockhurst.”
Rockhurst is the only high school in Kansas and Missouri to require computer science classes for all its students, Owsley said, adding that the addition of entrepreneurship curriculum was a natural step.
Launched in August, the class marks the first time the Small Business & Technology Development Center has provided curriculum for a high school and it won’t be its last, said Gubbels, business and program development consultant at the center.
“We are tasked to help businesses in Missouri start and grow — and there is no age limit on when you can start and grow,” Gubbels said. “Most of what we do is for community facing entrepreneurs, but we thinking working with partner organizations like Rockhurst is a great flagship project and we want to establish similar partnerships with other schools moving forward.”
The Ice House Entrepreneurship training curriculum teaches entrepreneurial mindset, a skill that is applicable for all students, Gubbels said.
“The curriculum is incredibly important for high school students because it is about purpose-driven lives and solving problems for others,” she said. “Whether that be for an entrepreneurial purpose or an employee related purpose, it’s still important to learn how to solve problems.”
Such a mindset fits with Rockhurst’s values, Owsley said.
“Our motto is forming men with and for others,” he said. “The value this class brings is it gets the students out into the world, allows them to collaborate with one another, connect with potential customers, do research, get out into the world and develop empathy.”
The class will tap into Rockhurst’s large alumni network, bringing in graduates as mentors. At the end of the semester, the students will pitch a solution to a problem they’ve worked to solve to a public-facing audience.
“We wanted to keep it broad,” Owsley said. “They may pitch a solution, or they may realize there already is a solution that exists or that there isn’t a problem after all. It’s more about the process of solving a problem than what the solution looks like.”
While Gubbels is teaching the students this semester, she will train Rockhurst faculty to instruct the class moving forward.
“There is a lot going on in education innovation in Kansas City. It’s remarkable and we’re glad to be a part of it,” Gubbels said. “Entrepreneurship gives you a way to approach the world that is utilitarian and therefore purposeful, we’re thankful to offer a foundational piece of that mindset to students.”
Part of the UMKC Innovation Center, the Small Business & Technology Development Center provides technical assistance to startup and second stage business through training and one-on-one consulting. It is also part of a nationwide network of the center’s programs.
In June, Gubbels was recognized by America’s Small Business Development Center as the State of Missouri’s most outstanding business counselor.