Entrepreneurial Mindset Projects Branch Out from This Colorado District’s STEM Program
Location: Longmont, Colorado
Number of schools and programs: 60
Total students: 33,000
High school students in entrepreneurship courses since 2019: 500
High schools served by Innovation Center program: 7
St. Vrain Valley School District extends across 411 square miles, from the Continental Divide to the Colorado plains, with a population that’s just as diverse as the landscape. As such, the district’s Innovation Center program is constantly evolving and growing to serve the needs and interests of such a dynamic student body. For the 2022-23 school year, it’s expanding from one state-of-the-art facility to two. Instructional technologist Jeffrey Lund has helped shape the Innovation Center’s trajectory. He impacted hundreds of students—since he joined the district in 2014.
When St. Vrain Valley’s Assistant Superintendent of Innovation Patty Quinones recruited Lund, her goal was straightforward: infuse business into its STEM offerings. Lund’s background as a classroom teacher, administrator, school board leader, and education entrepreneur gave him a unique perspective on the types of business courses that would be most effective and engaging. He joined a staff of seven at the Innovation Center and started researching instructional approaches and models for entrepreneurship education.
Lund eschewed complicated (and potentially expensive) models and instead chose the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative’s Ice House program after he and a colleague attended an ELI certification training in 2015. “It’s simple and balanced and really clicked with what I was already doing, teaching students to succeed after schooling,” he explained. “It’s more about engagement than the lesson plan itself.”
Thanks to Lund’s experience in various educational settings, he recognized that the versatility of ELI’s entrepreneurial mindset would benefit St. Vrain Valley’s diverse students. “The most impactful thing about the program is that it’s inclusive of at-risk and minority students,” he said. “It allows kids to really grow.”
He also recognized that it would challenge educators—himself included—in positive ways. “If you’re going to teach it, you’re going to have to live it and be a true entrepreneur yourself,” he said. “You have to be willing to be flexible and make mistakes and continue growing.”
The Way to Student Success:
The district’s first offering was a book study course using “Who Owns the Ice House? Eight Life Lessons from an Unlikely Entrepreneur.” Next, it added ELI’s student success curriculum for a new course in coordination with Front Range Community College. From the first pilot with only four students, Business 102: Entrepreneurial Operations has grown into a consistent staple. Another supplemental course, Entrepreneurial Business Development, has also grown phenomenally, Lund said.
Similarly, Lund received a $200,000 grant to create the Entrepreneurial Zone, which includes project teams, opportunities for collaboration, and an entrepreneurial certification pathway based on ELI’s entrepreneurial mindset approach. The Entrepreneurial Zone has been key to many grants and partnerships generated by the district’s innovations.
In 2018, the Innovation Center moved into a new facility. Its STEM programs continued to expand into everything from robotics and aeronautics to video production, drawing upon student interest. All with a basis in the entrepreneurial mindset.
Lund can calculate the number of students impacted by specific grants. For example, 300 from the 2018 grant—but the offshoots are impossible to quantify. “We’re infusing an entrepreneurial mindset because of the ELI curriculum,” he said, “and the beautiful thing is that St. Vrain Valley School District allows us to do so many things that make an impact.”
A few of the projects, programs, and partnerships Lund highlighted include:
- A robust internship program draws high school students from the 13 communities the district serves, from local colleges and universities, and from other countries.
- The Pathways to Teaching or P-Teach program introduces students to education careers and helps them achieve teaching certification. A former student runs the program, continuing to exhibit an entrepreneurial mindset.
- Summer mini-camps for elementary students.
- Adult education courses in English and Spanish, using materials translated by interns.
- The school district hosted an Entrepreneurial Summit in 2019 in partnership with the Watson Institute. This drew 100 students for two days of motivational speakers, group learning experiences, individual ideation support, and pitches.
- Informal after-school Coffee Talks with young social entrepreneurs from the Longmont area.
- An Entrepreneurial Success Center that will open for the 2022-23 school year. Lund will transfer from the Innovation Center to the new facility.
- Professional development for district teachers to help them introduce the entrepreneurial mindset in their classrooms.
Lund is excited to see where the district’s students and staff go with the entrepreneurial mindset in the future. He’s delighted it has already taken the district far beyond simply infusing business into STEM. “It’s simple, it’s free, it’s flowing, and you can run with it as a hybrid in so many settings,” he mused. “Maybe it will help change education at a structural level.”