Replicas of the Eiffel Tower and the New York skyline, dancing fountains, exotic animals and Britney Spears — you can find just about anything on the Las Vegas strip. Travel a couple blocks north, and you’ll find something even more out of the ordinary: a preschool dedicated to teaching youngsters entrepreneurial skills.
Connie Yeh , a 2004 Wharton grad, founded the 9th Bridge School in 2013 on the idea that basic business skills are necessary for all aspects of life. The school aims to give tots hands-on learning by showing them the wonders of Sin City.
Yeh said 9th Bridge has formed connections with small businesses in the area in order to bring entrepreneurs and their ideas into the school. But the projects won’t stop there. Yeh added that she’s open to the idea of an educational trip down Las Vegas Boulevard.
“Let’s do a field trip and go to the Bellagio,” she said. “If that’s what the kids want to learn about, then it’s the teachers having the flexibility and the resources ... to create a project that’s meaningful and constructive around it.”
“It’s based around our students’ interests,” she added.
But the fun doesn’t stop there. Last year, 9th Bridge had Burning Man artists visit the school to teach students about mosaic making. Yeh said that the experience led many youngsters to develop a passion for art and dreams of becoming professional artists.
Yeh started the school after quitting her finance job in New York and following the encouragement of her cousin, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh , to pursue her interest in education.
“I started realizing that a lot of these qualities that make one a successful entrepreneur are also the ones that make people successful in life, she said.
The school currently holds Kindergarten and pre-K classes, plus programs for toddlers and infants.
“What we’re focusing on is teaching our students to build something, to be entrepreneurs from the beginning,” Nikki Goldstein , the school’s director, said. “How do you create something and express your ideas, passions, and interests? How do you problem solve?”
Many of the 9th Bridge’s students have parents who are entrepreneurs and business owners. Goldstein wants the children to follow in their parents’ footsteps by incorporating their interests into their learning and life. She points to a recent tire donation as an example of this.
“They got very excited about the tires. How they roll, how they can play inside of them, how they’re heavy, how they came from racecars, all different kinds of ideas,” she said. “They decided they liked climbing through them and building towers with them so they wanted to build playground equipment with them. “
The school is a part of Downtown Project, a group spearheaded by Hsieh to revitalize the community of downtown Las Vegas.
“One of the really interesting parts of working with Downtown Project is one of their goals is to make Downtown Las Vegas into the most community-focused, large city in the world. Where you would least expect it,” Yeh said.
An important part of the community-based learning is the arts. “There are so many types of mediums of art and performing art and creative expression that’s going on everywhere in the city,” Yeh said.
Perhaps many years in the future, 9th Bridge students will find themselves only a few blocks down Las Vegas Boulevard, as the savvy entrepreneurs who make sure the party never stops.Comments powered by Disqus
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