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NMSU Innoventure programs inspire NM’s youngest aspiring entrepreneurs

Solving problems. Working well in a team. Taking creative risks. These are all important entrepreneurial skills and attitudes that that are challenging to master at any age. Through support from the Colorado-based Daniels Fund, the Innoventure program at New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center introduces children as young as 5 to these skills, so they’re more ready to apply them throughout their education and into their careers.



Students at Bell Elementary School in Deming, N.M., brainstorm ideas for an innovative product to solve an everyday problem during Innoventure Jr. Day in March 2019 at the school. Through support from the Daniels Fund, Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University has expanded the reach of its Innoventure Jr. program, which introduces children to entrepreneurship through hands-on learning. (NMSU Photo by Amanda Bradford)

Camp Innoventure students pitch their handmade products to a potential customer at the Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market in July 2019. The students created business and marketing plans, along with their inventory of products, during the week-long entrepreneurship camp offered by Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University. (NMSU Photo by Amanda Bradford)

Since Arrowhead received the Cradle-to-Career Pipeline grant from the Daniels Fund in September 2017, Innoventure has greatly expanded the reach of two key programs designed to introduce children to entrepreneurship through hands-on learning: Innoventure Jr. and Camp Innoventure.

Through Innoventure Jr., more than 18,000 New Mexico elementary school children learned about entrepreneurship and practiced their problem-solving and teamwork skills.

“Support from the Daniels Fund has enabled us to expand our programming over the past two years to reach school districts across New Mexico, including communities that don’t have easy access to this type of curriculum,” said Innoventure Director Amanda Bradford.

The Innoventure program partnered with NMSU’s Learning Games Lab to create short, animated videos in English and Spanish covering problem-solving, goal-setting and communication. Along with the videos, Innoventure staff introduce concepts, and provide lesson plans and worksheets teachers can integrate into their classes.

“The feedback we’ve received from teachers has been overwhelmingly positive, and we’re developing new activities for the coming school year, so when we return to these communities, we can build on what the students have already learned,” Bradford said.

MaryBeth Duffy, a third-grade teacher at Bataan Elementary in Deming, used the lesson plan to guide her students through entrepreneurship activities and was encouraged by how creative their solutions were.

“When students explained their inventions to the class, they went beyond their drawing and writing to verbally explain how things would work,” she said. “I posted my students’ drawings and writings in the hall, and I saw students proudly showing their parents, other students and staff their work.”

Trina Jones, a special education teacher at Del Norte Elementary School in Roswell, said she watched her students navigate how to work in a group effectively and to listen to each member during an Innoventure Jr. presentation and activity at the school in May 2019.

“They were excited when giving their own ideas,” she said, “and I noticed that all the students in a group were participating effectively and were open to each other’s ideas.”

The grant also supported a major expansion of the Camp Innoventure program, allowing more than 530 middle and high school students to experience developing and selling a product.

Led by Innoventure Deputy Director Lydia Hammond, Camp Innoventure has grown from a week-long day camp in Las Cruces to a statewide program that serves students from 31 communities in every corner of New Mexico. Camp Innoventure students brainstorm creative business ideas, put together a business model and develop their product to sell at a farmers or artisan market in their community.

“It’s really important to us that we find ways to meet communities and populations where they are,” Hammond said. “Every community, every program is different, and we have tailored the Camp Innoventure learning experience in a way that lets students explore these skills and take ownership of their ideas.”

Innoventure is also supported by the Air Force Research Lab, Wells Fargo and other local sponsors.

For information about the Innoventure program, contact Bradford at ambradfo@nmsu.edu or 575-646-7148 or visit http://arrowheadcenter.nmsu.edu/innoventure. For more about all of Arrowhead Center’s programs that support entrepreneurs of all ages in the region, visit http://arrowheadcenter.nmsu.edu.