If you read the news blog you’ll see a story about the Oasis Skateboard Factory (OSF). OSF is an alternative high school in downtown Toronto for kids that are at risk of dropping out of school.
Basically, the OSF teaches kids the high school curriculum—math, science, english, social studies—with skateboards. Yeah, skateboards. Designed by teacher, Craig Morrison, the school uses skateboards as a springboard for teaching. His students learn things like manufacturing and marketing by making, designing, and selling skateboards.
Mr. Morrison uses Bamboo Skateboards to help create a one-month cross curricular unit about sustainability. The students learn about issues surrounding business and sustainability, and use design to communicate their learning by creating graphic art on the decks. Recently, some of these were on display in an art gallery.
I actually first heard about Bamboo Skateboards a few months ago when I came across this video of Mr. Morrison talking about his program. There are a few things here that I think are relevant to marketing.
First, note the number of times Mr. Morrison uses the word “engage.” He constantly talks about how skateboards help to engage the students in their learning, which motivates them to find success in school.
The word “engage” is the trendy marketing term. We try to engage our fans, audiences, and customers in our marketing endeavors. When I heard Mr. Morrison talking about engaging students, it really made me realize that teachers are perhaps the most overlooked marketing resource out there. While marketers have been engaging audiences for five years, good teachers have been creating lesson plans that engage their students for decades! If you can get a kid to want to learn math, you can sell anything!
The second interesting point is about business and education. Bamboo Skateboards helps the OSF and other schools with its Sustainability Through Art (STA) program. Schools like the OSF benefit from the STA with a fun and engaging teaching opportunity while Bamboo Skateboards extends its brand awareness.
The integration of Bamboo Skateboards into the school is a really great example of businesses adding value to education. And yet it somehow seems wrong or unethical to have a corporate presence in the classroom.
But with reduced funding for schools and a greater need for a highly skilled workforce, I think that we need to start looking for ways that the private sector can help educators. Perhaps now is the time for a new mutually beneficial “educational marketing” that adds relevant and real world content to the school curriculum, motivates young people, and improves academic success while providing brand exposure for businesses.