Authentic learning. It’s an Ah-Ha moment when a fifth grader uses a sewing machine for the first time. It’s a humble realization by a teacher that learning alongside her students requires releasing control.

It sounds wonderful, but fostering this kind of learning isn’t always easy… especially in a system driven by student performance and standards. Going off script and creating opportunities for relevant, real-world learning is scary. It takes courage and a whole lot of leadership. So, how do we make it easier? How do we create more opportunities for teachers and students?

The co-founders of Real World Scholars, John Cahalin and Elyse Burden, set out to answer these questions and create a solution that made those Ah-Ha moments a little easier to come by. By providing $1,000 seed funding for teachers who want to start a classroom business, Real World Scholars is empowering educators and students to implement real world learning or as they would say “Ship it!”

Today, students all over the country are improving critical thinking skills, gaining creative confidence and positively impacting their communities through their EdCorps (education corporation) endeavors.

Here in Tucson, LeadLocal has been working to support the teachers willing to take on the challenge of starting an EdCorp. Over the course of the school year, the Tucson community has come together to witness and rally behind the incredible work of our local EdCorps.

When given the support and tools they need, teachers and students get excited about learning…and that’s when the good stuff happens. In celebration of National EdCorps Week, we want to highlight the growing EdCorps in our own backyard.

AquaCent, authentic learning, real world Scholars, EdCorp
Students prototyping their initial bath bombs

AquaCent – Priscilla Fischback & Katie Montgomery

These 7th grade science teachers at Apollo Middle School jumped on the chance to start a business that would lead to outdoor learning. Their students are using herbs from their school garden to make bath bombs with 3D printed figures of endangered species inside. The funds raised by the bath bombs will go to setting up an aquaponics system at Apollo.

“Students in the EdCorp class work easily with one another and have built relationships. They are excited to come to class everyday and want to know when they will be working on the business.” 

– Priscilla Fischback, AquaCent Co-Founder


ABC’s of Bullying – Judi Breault

ABC's of Bullying, Real World Scholars, EdCorp, authentic learning
Judi Breault and one of her students selling product at a school event.

Judi Breault turned over the business process entirely to her students. The students at St. Michael’s School spoke up about wanting to end bullying at their school and in the Tucson community. They started a campaign called Strike Down Bullying. Students designed magnets and wristbands to raise funds and awareness for anti-bullying education for themselves and their peers.



Easy Move It Furniture, authentic learning, Real World Scholars, EdCorp,
Easy Move It Furniture students creating their product.

Easy Move It Furniture – Kathy Lohse

Kathy Lohse, the Project-Based Learning Coordinator at Borton Elementary asked her students “What gets in the way of collaborative learning?” Using systems thinking, they discovered that classroom furniture can hinder collaboration. Easy Move It furniture solves that problem by providing bean bag chairs and lap desks that make group work easier.


Time4Games – Stephanie Pederson

Time4Games, Real World Scholars, EdCorp, authentic learning
A look at a few of the cards from IntoMythology, the first product of Time4Games.

How do we make mythology – something every 4th grader in Arizona has to learn –into something fun? The students in Stephanie’s class have a solution… mythology trading cards! Their game, IntoMythology, was conceptualized, created and packaged entirely by the students. We had the chance to learn a little more about Stephanie’s story when she attended a LeadLocal leadership & learning retreat in February.


“This is really special to me because it is about the students, it is about their interests, their choices and it becomes their learning.”

 – Stephanie Pederson, Time4Games Founder

Santa Rita Sprouts, Real World Scholars, EdCorp, authentic learning
Josh Ruddick tending to a plant in the school greenhouse.

Santa Rita Sprouts – Josh Ruddick

Josh Ruddick, an educator who often finds himself out-of-the-box, is excited about this avenue to couple his business experience with his clear passion for education. The students at Santa Rita High School are selling soaps they create using ingredients from their hydroponics-powered school garden. Check out more of their story in this article written by RWS co-founder, Elyse Burden.


Borton Garden Shop – Molly Reed

Borton Garden Shop, Real World Scholars, EdCorp, authentic learning
An early prototype of the seed packets sold by Borton students.

Are you sensing a trend? Another garden-based business is growing! Tucson has a unique year-round climate and tons of local support for school gardens. Kindergarten teacher and Borton Garden Shop founder, Molly Reed, recognized an opportunity for learning. Her students are growing, packaging and selling seeds from the Borton Magnet School garden.

“My experience with the Borton Garden Shop has proven even more so how connecting student learning to real world experiences increases engagement in learning.” 

– Molly Reed, Borton Garden Shop Founder

LeadLocal is passionate about supporting authentic, empowered learning which is at the heart of these EdCorps. With the support of organizations like CommunityShare, district leaders, parents and neighbors – we are excited to see our EdCorp community grow in the coming years and continue to provide real-world opportunities for students in Tucson.

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