With a mission to “create tomorrow’s entrepreneurs today,” the Incubator School in Los Angeles recently received a boost from a $100,000 grant to further develop its entrepreneurship program, and share its “lessons learned” in an open source playbook.
When that playbook is finished, schools will be able to access a step-by-step guide that shows how they can be like IncSchool, as it is called—helping middle school students start with a business idea, vetting that idea through various stages, and eventually launching it. The playbook will share the school’s discoveries, methods, tools, and curriculum.
“We want our students to become change agents,” sparking changes in schools, neighborhoods, and one day the city, Bhatt said.
A public school in the Los Angeles Unified School District, IncSchool has nearly doubled in size since it was launched last year, according to Sujata Bhatt, the school’s founder. With an enrollment of 118 students, the school’s 6th, 7th, and 8th grades are co-located with West Chester High School. Each year another grade level will be added until it reaches 12th grade.
For now, middle schoolers learn by doing. They meet with CEOs, political leaders, and journalists. You might find them coding or developing websites, redesigning beaches to save species, or presenting at conferences. The bottom line, as it is in any budding business, is to get to the launch of a startup. “We’re trying to have startups launch in 8th grade,” Bhatt said.
The school produced this video about what happens at IncSchool—where 39 percent of students are low-income, 19 percent are special education, and 15 percent are identified as gifted and talented—as part of its public application.
About two weeks ago, IncSchool learned that it had won an LA2050 grant from the Goldhirsh Foundation, an L.A.-based nonprofit driving a $1 million initiative to draft a comprehensive road map for the city’s future. In the educational category, the organization asked applicants, “How would you use $100,000 to make LA2050 the best place to learn?”
Two grants were made to schools. IncSchool’s application was selected by a jury, and the nonprofits City Year Los Angeles and Partnership for LA Schools won in a public vote. With their funding, the partnership will expand offerings of one-on-one mentorship to Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights and Jordan High School in Watts.
IncSchool will partner with the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, Greater Los Angeles, to provide professional development for one of its teachers in a four-day mini-MBA class sponsored by the nonprofit. “They have expertise in training teachers to run an entrepreneurship program,” Bhatt said.
The Goldhirsh Foundation funding unlocks a $100,000 matching Next Generation Learning Challenges grant, Bhatt said.
Video: From the Incubator School’s public application to the Goldhirsh Foundation.