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10-Year-Old Girl Scouts Start Their Own Virtual School To Earn Business Badge

NOEL KING, HOST:

Kids have had a lot of extra time during the pandemic, which has not escaped them. Judith Kogan, a harp teacher in the Boston area, tells the story of one of her students who wanted to help fellow students stay busy.

BESSIE MADDEN: So you need a pencil and some paper.

JUDITH KOGAN: Meet Bessie Madden and Emma Morgenstern. The 10-year-old Girl Scouts wanted to earn business badges. To do that, they had to develop a business. Bessie's been doing hybrid school. Emma has been fully remote. They both noticed their younger siblings had loads of free time in the remote school day. So they decided to offer online, 30-minute classes to students kindergarten through third grade.

MADDEN: We sort of brainstormed a big list of things that we knew how to do. And it wasn't super long. But we had a bunch of different craft projects.

KOGAN: That raised a demographic issue.

MADDEN: A lot of boys don't like doing crafty things. So then we added, like, Legos and Pokemon.

KOGAN: Then they realized they could teach regular school subjects.

EMMA MORGENSTERN: Like, advanced in, like, academics.

KOGAN: The girl's website, E and B Classes, says Emma will plan a lesson based on your child. Emma says her favorite so far was teaching a first grader who wasn't really behind in school.

MORGENSTERN: His mom let me choose anything that I think would be fun for him to learn. So I was teaching him how to transfer the time...

KOGAN: From digital to analog clocks and vice versa. She also taught what she called the U.S. standard algorithm.

MORGENSTERN: It's like when you have one number on top of the other. And then you make a line under it and solve it. Like, you add the one's place. And then you transfer the numbers on.

KOGAN: Bessie says most people...

MADDEN: Call it the way to subtract.

KOGAN: The girls have discovered that teaching is a little harder than it looks.

MADDEN: Now we're going to make the ears, which are two big Cs coming out from the edge of your head like this is. Izzy (ph), are you following my directions? You need to unmute if you want to say something, Izzy.

KOGAN: It takes time to find out what students know. Bessie once taught finger knitting to two students at the same time.

MADDEN: One of them had sort of already knew how to do it but didn't really know how to do it. And the other one was having a little bit of trouble. So it was sort of hard to be focusing on two people at once.

KOGAN: Classes are $5 each.

MORGENSTERN: They know we're fifth graders. So they can't expect, like, the most amazing class they've ever taken. But they can also expect a reasonable class for who we are and the price.

KOGAN: Of course, for these classes, youth may be an advantage. The girls point out that for professional teachers, elementary school was a long time ago. Other girls in their scout troop are considering businesses around pet care and cotton candy. But Emma says her Zoom classes may help her down the line.

MORGENSTERN: I want to be a math professor, hopefully at Harvard. But I'm not sure if that's going to end there.

KOGAN: That would be Harvard University. She says it's the second-best school in the world and really close to her house. Like good business partners, Bessie and Emma meet weekly to assess how things are going. Recently, they've pondered the future of the business.

MORGENSTERN: After COVID is kind of over, we was thinking if we'd still want to try doing it on Zoom.

KOGAN: For Bessie Madden and Emma Morgenstern, online teaching has one huge advantage. If teaching in person, they'd need an adult supervisor, kind of like a babysitter. But on Zoom...

MADDEN: It's just the teaching part.

KOGAN: And that's what it's all about.

For NPR News, I'm Judith Kogan.

MADDEN: Great job Izzy, hope to see you again. Bye. You can log off.

IZZY: Bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF EL TEN ELEVEN'S "JD") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.