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Maker learning projects, led by girls, that catalyze kindness and raise money for charitable causes.

When two first-grade girls came to their teacher with the idea to start a business that donates profits to charity, a maker-learning program became an incubator for young entrepreneurs. When the girls started making products to combat bullying, the business became a catalyst for kindness in the community.

HundrED 2020


HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED 2020

Pittsburgh, USA

Web presence






January 2019
Our community is changing as a result of this program. Bus drivers wear the shirt! So do police officers, cafeteria workers, dentists, the list goes on. These four simple words have come to mean so mu

About the innovation

How can we empower young learners to make a difference in their school community?

In 2016, first-graders Julia and Amelia approached their teacher Maureen and asked if they could start a business that sold products made in their school’s makerspace and donated the profits to charitable causes. That day, JAM was born, named for three co-founders’ first initials.

JAM began selling simple products like keychains and “tin bins” (mint tins that are repurposed into containers for fun themed items or craft kits) to people at their school. Each product that the girls produced sold out, and soon they were welcoming more JAM members who wanted to help.

Soon, dozens of girls (and boys) were developing maker and entrepreneurship skills to support causes they cared about, from cancer research to hunger. But something else was happening, too—by putting students in charge of what to make, JAM was creating space for the development of products that could change the world.

How can we empower young learners to make a difference in their school community?

One day at school, a kindergarten JAM member experienced bullying, and it gave her an idea: what if JAM could make and sell a way to identify the kind people? JAM members started making buttons with a simple message: #bethekindkid.

Buttons became #bethekindkid T-shirts, and JAM has now sold thousands of shirts—it’s impossible to turn a corner at the school without spotting someone wearing one. This simple phrase has spread kindness around the community, from students and teachers to cafeteria staff and parents.

#bethekindkid has helped the ideas behind JAM spread to other schools: four JAM clubs have formed at nearby schools. Each is as unique as its student members, but they’re all creating opportunities for young entrepreneurs to make a difference.

Impact & scalability

Academy review results
Read more about our selection process


Kidsburgh on KDKA TV
Avonworth Middle School JAM
Pittsburgh Children's Musuem
JAM - Kindness Song
Kindness in Action
North Allegheny Kindness Day
Learning to Interview
Kindness Book
Dr. Dahar is so KIND
JAM2 Up and Running
Kindness Book
JAM - Final.mp4
Exciting News
Grable Foundation
Community Outreach
Family Kindness
Avon Club
Pittsburgh Quarterly
Making in every nook and cranny
Spreading the JAM
CMP Partnership
Shirts to MARS
Bracelet Making
Allegheny Intermediate Unit
Be a Kind Kid launches at a Vigo County school
Ohio Township Police Department
Special Olympics
Pittsburgh Children's Museum
Provident Charter School
Avonworth High School
Excela Health
Lunch Time Helper
Yinzers in the Burgh
Little Girl - Strong Voice
Sending #bethekindkid
Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsurgh
Tourette's Association of America
Highmark Caring Place
Role Models
Children's Museum of Pittsburgh
Valentine's Day
California, PA Area School District
Growing Up Kind
Avonworth Primary Center Staff
Customized School Shirts
Vacation Pics
Cafeteria Staff - Avonworth Primary Center
Mr. McFeely - Speedy Delivery
Hopewell Boys Varsity Basketball Team
Guest Speaker
Positive Player Profile: JAM Enterprises APC
Maker Faire Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Penguins
Presenting their Cause
Radio Station 100.7 Star
Local Police Department
Community Support
JAM Girls
Construction Site
JAM Meeting
One of our youngest members hard at work creating plastic fusion pictures to give to a member of a nursing home.
JAM's Tin Bin assortment

Implementation steps

Find a sponsor/s
The sponsor/s will need to be willing to work with members of the group on a regular basis to accomplish the group's mission. I began JAM on my own and after two years, I discovered that I needed a co-sponsor to help with the increasing amount of kids in the group. It's always nice to have another adult to bounce things off of. At times, we even recruit parents to assist us with our larger projects. We also use our 5th and 6th grade students as mentors to our younger students.
Administrative Support
It is always helpful when you have the support of your school's/organization's administration. When everyone is working toward a common goal, it is much easier to get things moving. This individual should be available to help support the group in good times and in bad. It could be a principal, a superintendent, or a member of the School Board. It's also important to branch out into the community for expert help and support.
Find your Members
This can be done with flyers, word of mouth, and/or social media. Members will come and go as they decide if it is their community or not. NO ONE is left out if asked to join. Our JAM members are grades K - 6. It is very helpful to have older students with a desire to become role models act as mentors to the younger students.

As we consider what we will make and sell to our community, there are a variety of questions we ask ourselves. What would the group like to make? We usually come up with several ideas and then vote on the ideas. We talk about who the product might appeal to, as well as consider supply and demand. How will we price the product? This is a matter of considering profit and loss. Who will we sell the product to? Who are the consumers? How will we deliver the product?

We started with very simple products - Heart Poppers. These were made from toilet paper tubes, cut out hearts, and a balloon. The balloon was attached to the back of the tube, hearts put inside the tube, and when the balloon is pulled back, the hearts pop out.

It's best to start with small projects and have the complexity of the projects grow based on what new type of making the group would like to learn. We reached out to members of our community to come and teach making that we were interested in - bookbinding, crocheting, knitting, etc.

Making the Product

The kindergarten and 1st-grade students partner with 4th-grade students and 2nd-grade students partner with 3rd-grade students to begin creating the products. The 5th-grade students are the quality control group that makes sure the products are being created to the best of our abilities. To complete the process, 6th-grade studentstake the completed products and do the labeling and bagging of the orders.

In the beginning, we only sold items to individuals in our building. The orders were then delivered by the girls to each classroom.


When a member has an idea of where to donate money, they must research the cause and present it to the entire membership. We then vote to choose one or two causes that will receive any monies raised during that month.

We have decided that we will not donate to one particular individual, but rather to causes that may have an impact on an individual. For instance, if someone in our group knows of someone with cancer, we will donate to an organization like the American Cancer Society.

Donations don't necessarily mean money. We have also donated our time. For instance, we went to a local retirement home and planted flowers. We have also made placemats for the Meals on Wheels organization. More importantly, we stress to our members that you don't need recognition for doing something kind. Being kind is simply the right thing to do.


Once our product was sold, and the money was collected and counted by the students we had to decide how we were going to handle the money. A field trip was taken to our local bank where the tellers were kind enough to help a few members of our group set up the appropriate accounts. Each meeting we talk about how much money we collected and how much we paid out.

These are such valuable life skills for our students - it's a true connection between school and their outside world. It's more tangible for the students to complete this process hands-on than through a worksheet.

Sending Donations

Once the checks are written, the girls add a note, address the envelope and put thedonation in the mail. We feel that it is important for the JAM girls to see the process through to the end.

It gives them a true sense of how the world around them operates.

All of the people we donate to, send us thank you notes. This is especially important to show our students that they are making a difference in their own unique way.

Spread of the innovation

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