This school year, North Shore Country Day is piloting an upper school entrepreneurship class in partnership with The Garage at Northwestern University. The hands-on course, which is open to sophomores, juniors and seniors, gives students an opportunity to bring their entrepreneurial ideas to life. Over the course of the semester, students learn about innovation tools and entrepreneurial frameworks, and put them into practice through solving a problem in their lives, communities or the world.
While the goal is to help students foster an entrepreneurial mindset and skillset, the focus of this course is on process, especially leaning in to failures, collaborating with partners and mentors, iterating on solutions, and listening to a customer’s needs.
NSCD junior Neil Behl of Glenview initially pitched a project to sell toys on TikTok, but he realized after some prodding from his instructors that he needed to come up with something else. Instead, he developed a company called Science Rocks! and piloted an after-school science enrichment program for fourth graders.
“When I proposed my initial idea, it was very clear they didn’t like it at all,” Neil explained. “I kept hearing them say the same phrase: ‘You have to do something you’re passionate about.’ So after a week or so I said, ‘Fine—I’ll bite. I’ll try something I’m passionate about.’ And that’s when I came up with Science Rocks as it’s known today. And thank goodness they rejected my initial idea because I can’t imagine what I would be like if I was selling toys for the past three months.”
Neil said science is something he’s always loved. But he had a lot to learn before he could develop the class, test it out with his little sister—who happens to be a fourth grader—and then teach it to a group of 9- and 10-year-olds. He made a lot of mistakes in the process, and learned hard lessons about logistics and planning. Those insights and skills are things he will carry with him in the future.
“These students may or may not become entrepreneurs in the technical sense, but the skills they learn in this class will carry into other areas of their life,” explained Director of NSCD’s Live+Serve Laboratory and Upper School Social Studies Teacher Drea Gallaga, who is teaching the class. “They’re learning how to be persistent, resilient and fearless. They’re getting to know their strengths and how they can push themselves. One thing we talk about a lot is that it's really easy to have an idea. Lots of people have ideas. But how do you execute that idea? They've really taken that to heart, and it’s an important skill not only for academic work but also for life.”
Gallaga is co-teaching the class with Melissa Kaufman, the founding executive director of The Garage. The class meets in NSCD’s Live+Serve Lab—a mission-focused makerspace, distinguished by its focus on active service, global citizenship and innovation—which Kaufman consulted on when it was being built.
Kaufman recently published a book entitled “Founded: The No B.S. Guide for Student Entrepreneurs.” When she first started working with college students, she realized they needed something to help them get up to speed quickly. When she couldn’t find the right book on the subject, she decided to write one herself. Then Gallaga helped turn the content of the book into a high school curriculum. “We hope this will be the beginning of bringing ‘Founded’ to classrooms across the country and world,” Kaufman said.
Students at NSCD worked on a range of products and ideas, from Neil’s enrichment class to a TikTok page raising awareness and advocating for endangered elephants to a podcast about the most interesting people at school. For their final project, students created their own three- to five-minute episodes in the style of the popular NPR podcast “How I Built This” with Guy Raz, explaining their entrepreneurship journey over the course of the class.
The skills these students are learning as they bring their business ideas to life are preparing them to contribute in an increasingly technological and interconnected world.
North Shore Country Day’s annual 10-minute play festival “Take 10” returned to the stage on April 13. For the first time in three years, students performed their original plays in front of a live audience with performances in the NSCD Auditorium.
All seven plays were written, produced and directed by students in the upper school directing class. Some were based on personal experience, observations and media events, while others stemmed from pure creativity. Once the scripts were finalized, the student directors held auditions, cast the roles and ran their own rehearsals.