A Lot with a Little: Nurturing Imagination

by Meg Specia, Hopeprint Summer 2017 Intern, University of Notre Dame

“How much for friendship?” I asked. “Two dollars!” the fourth-grade girl across from me replied, beaming. That seemed like a bargain, so I handed over two slips of orange paper, which she proudly added to a pile on the table. 

It was our second day of summer programming, and I had presented my group of fourth and fifth graders with a challenge. If they could open any type of store, what would they sell? What would the store be called? How much would they charge and how would they advertise? I handed out slips of colored paper that had been transformed into currency, told them that before opening up shop they would need to buy their storefront for $35, and set them free with a stack of paper and a box of markers. 

They threw themselves into it, dreaming up an incredible variety of stores. Some were focused on rather niche markets (hover boards, airplanes, and an entire establishment just for toy trucks), while others threw the net wide. For example, the store where I purchased friendship boldly claimed to sell “everything,” highlighting such products on its sign as ice cream, friendship, and shoes. 

The room was filled with chatter as kids bought, sold, advertised, and bartered. Nobody was fazed by the fact that no real products were changing hands or that their money was simply scraps of colored paper with a dollar amount written on it. Their imaginations made it all real. 

Although there may not have been real airplanes or shoes sold at Hopeprint that day, the lessons learned were certainly real and of great value. One girl realized she should adjust her prices at her nail salon when no one was willing to pay five dollars per nail. Some students learned the benefit of giving away products for the sake of free advertising. What’s more, they were all able to dream big and to practice putting those dreams into action.

At the end of the day, the room was littered with tiny scraps of colored paper and handmade signs for stores. I find it striking that this paper and some markers were the only resources necessary for some very important creating to take place. It excites me to think the lessons that were learned that day as well as the futures that were imagined. And of course, I now have some extra friendship, which is always a good thing!