Ignite young people’s imagination by involving them in creating an innovation center

Providing opportunities for young people to be innovative, inventive, as well as discuss problems and explore solutions can help stir their entrepreneurial spirit.

Creative, innovative, productive, adaptable, determined, passionate, and risk taking are all personality traits often associated with entrepreneurs. These traits need to be developed and encouraged intentionally in 4-H clubs, classrooms and other youth programs to inspire the next generation of young entrepreneurs.

Providing opportunities for young people to be innovative and inventive, as well as discuss problems and explore solutions can help stir their entrepreneurial spirit. According to Merriam Webster, the definition of innovate is to introduce something new or do something in a new way, and the definition of invent is to create or produce for the first time.

How can you as a teacher, youth development worker, or parent encourage young people to bring new ideas to life? One method is to provide space within the school, classroom, youth center, or home as an entrepreneur or innovation space. This is a designated area where youth can be free to design, build, invent, draw and create things on their own. An innovation area can be equipped with many supplies, games, and equipment such as craft items, 3-D puzzles, Legos, brain teasers, drawing utensils, recyclable items, or even old appliances they could disassemble. Have the youth give the space a name. Involve them in becoming co-creators of this space. Invite the teens in identifying and collecting supplies for the area. Engage the youth in organizing and decorating the space. Possible decorations to enhance the area could include inspirational quotes, posters, pictures of innovators, inventions, and discoveries. Also, make sure to involve the youth in setting up guidelines for the use of the space. Try to keep the space appealing with youth generated hands-on weekly or monthly challenges, competitions, brain teasers or contests. Teaching relevant entrepreneurial skills will be enhanced if the youth are empowered by being involved in the planning, organizing, implementing and maintaining their “enterprising” area.

Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development offers youth entrepreneurship tools, resources and curriculum that can be used to enhance a youth entrepreneurship space. See part one, two, and three of this series for more helpful information on youth entrepreneurship education.

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