This is an opinion editorial by Ryan Brisch, Anthony Feliciano and Mark Maraia, who recently spent a few weeks helping 85 middle schoolers operate a pop-up shop running on Bitcoin’s Lightning Network.
On November 18, 2022, about 85 students braved a cold snowy Friday morning at STRIVE Prep – Lake middle school in Denver, Colorado to participate in a unique program. Even though they got a late start because of snowfall the night before, there was a sense of eager anticipation in the air.
Ryan Brisch, a Denver Bitcoiner, had been frequently talking to his significant other about issues Bitcoin could help solve, or some new Bitcoin product that he was excited about. His wife, Nicole, is a sixth grade math teacher at STRIVE Prep and had started to respond that he should come and speak to her class about some of the basic mathematical foundations of Bitcoin.
In October, Nicole was telling Brisch about an enrichment class led by her coworker, Rawa Abu Alsamah, which was working with an outside group, We Thrive. We Thrive offers entrepreneurial apprenticeships in which youth start their own ventures, earn real revenue and gain mentorship. Alsamah’s seventh- and eighth-grade students were creating their own businesses through the guidance of We Thrive and would be selling their products at a pop-up market later in the month.
When hearing about this event, Brisch’s first question was, ‘’Do you think they would be interested in being able to buy and sell their products in bitcoin?”
From there, the idea was in motion and Brisch reached out to his local Bitcoin Telegram group for the content experts that would be needed to make the idea work. Anthony Feliciano and Mark Maraia quickly volunteered not only their expertise on money, Bitcoin and the Lightning Network, but also their time, energy and sats. Over the next three weeks, Brisch, Feliciano and Maraia, met, spoke and quickly devised a plan of action. Maraia would teach the kids about money and Bitcoin and Feliciano would focus on the use of the Muun wallet and the Lightning Network.
The first week’s presentation was focused on getting the students to think about money, how it worked, who currently controlled it and then question them about how it could be different and how the Bitcoin network and monetary system worked. It ended with a little homework assignment: to download Muun wallet. The next week, the morning of the pop-up shop, the three men were back at the school, passing out sats that were fundraised over the previous week and showing students how to create and pay invoices. Needless to say, the digital-native students took to Muun wallet and Lightning payments like fish to water!
On that cold snowy morning, dozens of student vendors arrived before the pop-up event so they could learn how to receive sats in payment for their product or service from other students. The plan called for these students to use the Lightning Network exclusively and that meant the student entrepreneurs needed to know how to create an invoice.
These student entrepreneurs received $5 to start their day and were encouraged to let the other students know they would accept payment in sats. Within a few minutes, each student had learned wallet basics and went to their booth armed with the knowledge of how to accept bitcoin in payment for their product or service. (The week prior, they had raised about $500 in bitcoin as seed capital for this event with support from a generous group of Rocky Mountain Bitcoiners.)
Earlier that morning, these young entrepreneurs had set up their booth in the school gym featuring signage which advertised their product/service and a price list offering a wide variety of goods such as homemade cupcakes, cookies, waffles and other handmade goods as well as services such as neck shaves and shoe shines.
The event began with the students downloading Muun wallet and learning how to create invoices. Next, the students were all instructed to create Lightning invoices to receive $5 worth of sats, as they headed down to the pop-up shop in the gymnasium. Just over 80 students and a couple of teachers were loaded with sats to spend. Some of the boldest students came back to reload after they spent their first sats. It really was a sight to see, just a mere few hours earlier, students were downloading Muun. Sooner after, merchants were creating invoices for goods, kids were running around performing transactions, and through all of the excitement, you could hear merchants yelling “I accept bitcoin!”
The level of enthusiasm that the students showed toward learning how to send and receive sats was inspiring and would make any Bitcoiner optimistic about our future. The event was a huge success, with many of the students thanking our local Bitcoiners for the lessons and sats. The students, being digital natives, were able to grasp how to use the technology with incredible ease. They were all told of the importance of remembering their four-digit code and using the security features to backup and recover the Muun wallet as needed. This began their first, tentative steps toward owning a form of property with a level of responsibility that none had ever known.
By the end of the event, the most industrious vendors held more than 180,000 sats in their wallets and a growing awareness that this new kind of money spelled opportunity.
Our local Bitcoiners also took the time to educate a few of the teachers on how to download a wallet and receive sats. After receiving sats on her Muun wallet, one teacher was blown away with the idea that she didn’t have to provide a phone number, or an address, or a social security number and that it did not require permission from a bank or government. All it takes is a phone and an internet connection to send money to someone on the other side of the world.
And as our local Bitcoiners left the event, there were many shouts of thanks as they walked out confident that the rabbit hole was drawing near for a new crop of bitcoiners. At the very least, a cohort of seventh and eighth graders were much more curious about Bitcoin.
The only thing that can top that feeling is to see another million Bitcoiners march into a local school near them and do something similar. If you are interested in learning more please contact Brisch.
This is a guest post by Ryan Brisch, Anthony Feliciano and Mark Maraia. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.