Designing for Equity
Designing for Equity

Together, educators are doing the reimagining and reinvention work necessary to make true educational equity possible. Student-centered learning advances equity when it values social and emotional growth alongside academic achievement, takes a cultural lens on strengths and competencies, and equips students with the power and skills to address injustice in their schools and communities.

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Authentic opportunities for self-direction, community connection, peer collaboration, and active social responsibility prepare children to be successful 21st-century leaders.

Almost every school aspires to build leaders of the future. You’ll find it written in our taglines and mission statements and bumper stickers: “Building Tomorrow’s Leaders Today.”

And yet how many of our children’s daily experiences align with true preparation for a future we can only begin to imagine? Our children frequently sit in rows, talking only when called on, doing the same thing at the same time. Our schools look more like factories than 21st century workplaces.

At Montessori For All, we seek to reimagine what school looks like so children practice 21st century skills. Most recently, we hosted our first annual Makers Market.

montessori makers market

The idea was simple: participants (open to grades Pre-K3 through 6th grade) brainstormed ideas for what they wanted to make and sell. Then they used micro-loans to purchase all the supplies. They made their products, designed signs, and practiced making change and then ran their businesses on a Saturday in December. Because we wanted to help cultivate “Young Entrepreneurs for Change,” we encouraged children to identify a non-profit organization to donate a portion of their proceeds to. Here’s the form we used to share the concept with families.

Tauriyah, a sixth grader, decided to make her famous tacos. She even showed up at school a couple days before the market with a stack of flyers to advertise her menu. Kimberly, a fourth grader, used the same strategy she uses to brainstorm writing topics (“What is something I have a lot of information about? What’s something I love? What is something unique?”) and decided to open “Ho, Ho, Hot Chocolate” to sell hot chocolate kits. Henry, a 1st grader, picked a project off of Pinterest that involved making keychains out of painted wooden beads.

Montessori makers market

To ensure that all interested children were able to participate, we offered an afterschool club to create additional access. Together, we discussed choosing a product based on estimated cost of production, time needed to produce the number they want to sell, and possible sale prices needed to meet their loan repayment and other financial goals. Separately, the children worked through the specifics of their businesses, determining how much of a loan would be needed and how many items would need to be sold, and at what price, to repay the loan and earn a profit. Outside of our club, the production of their business product was entirely their responsibility.

On the day of the first annual Magnolia Makers Market more than 40 Young Entrepreneurs for Change set up their booths, selling a variety of crafts and wares. Some sold their photography skills. Some sold treats like a special drink unique to Puerto Rico. More than a few sold holiday-themed crafts. All Young Entrepreneurs for Change gained the experience of planning a business, finding funding, crafting their marketing materials, and finally selling their products to the local community.

These Young Entrepreneurs for Change also learned the value of social responsibility by sharing some of their profits with non-profit organizations like the Austin Animal Sanctuary.

Montessori For All seeks to prepare children to be successful leaders in the 21st century. Indeed, the ultimate vision is that these children are ready to transform the 21st century! By providing authentic opportunities to practice self-direction, connect with the larger community, collaborate with peers, and develop their respect for social responsibility, the annual Magnolia Makers Market is one way Montessori For All works toward that vision.

Montessori For All, located in Austin, Texas, offers monthly community tours to see our innovative model in action. Contact Ashley Velasquez at for more information about the tours or to learn more about providing an authentic entrepreneurial experience for children through a market of your own.

Ashley Velasquez headshot

Ashley N. Velásquez

Director of Growth & Development, Montessori For All

Ashley N. Velásquez is Director of Growth & Development for Montessori For All. Montessori For All aims to help all children gain access to an excellent education by opening and leading high-performing, authentic, public Montessori charter schools in diverse communities across the country. Montessori For All opened its flagship campus, Magnolia Montessori For All, in the fall of 2014 in Austin, TX.