Interview: Alex's Lemonade Stand as a Learning Environment

The following is the first in a series where I take a look at non-traditional learning environments to see how they guide students, customers, audience members, etc. to their learning goals.

Learning. It occurs throughout our hectic days as we move from point A to point Z. Somewhere in between those points, you may decide to break away from the rush by stopping at a lemonade stand to get a cool, fresh-squeezed beverage. But did you know that learning still occurs even at that lemonade stand?

This is especially true when that lemonade stand is from the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF). This socially powerful organization stems from a single lemonade stand started by then 4-year old cancer patient Alexandra "Alex" Scott in 2000. She wanted to raise money to help find a cure for childhood cancer (and succeeded, raising $2000). Unfortunately, Alex passed in 2004, but the fight against childhood cancer continues through the foundation that bears her name. As a result, every time a customer visits an Alex's Lemonade Stand, it's not just a chance to get that fresh-squeezed beverage, but also a chance to learn about a cause that's much bigger, and a chance to learn how to help that cause.

I was able to catch up with Jay Scott, Alex's father and the co-executive director of ALSF (with his wife, Liz), to talk about how an Alex's Lemonade Stand serves as a learning environment that helps continue the fight that Alex so bravely started.

Jay Scott, Co-Executive Director of Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation

MTW: When a customer comes to visit an Alex's Lemonade Stand, what exactly would you like for them to learn? What is the minimum you'd like for them to learn, and what, in a perfect scenario, is the most you hope they learn?

JS: Ideally, someone stopping by an Alex's Lemonade Stand would learn a couple of things. First, they would learn that every donation counts and everyone can make a difference. We also like people to learn about childhood cancer and how much of a reality it is.

MTW: How do you accomplish these learning goals within such a brief lemonade visit?

JS: We try to give volunteers talking points so they can get 1-2 messages to people that are stopping by.

MTW: How does the design, look, and "feel" of an Alex's Lemonade Stand help with accomplishing these goals?

JS: Grassroots is always welcoming. Having a welcoming feel is the first step to getting someone to stop by. Then just take it from there.

A warm, welcoming learning environment.

MTW: How would you label the role of the volunteers at the stand? Do you look at them as teachers?

JS: ALSF volunteers are the main interface with supporters. We try to give them the tools to be our liaisons. If they can get a couple of "nuggets" of information to each person that stops by, then together the message reaches a lot of people.

MTW: What are some of the differences in guiding the customer to the learning goals now at an Alex's Lemonade Stand as opposed to when the first stand was created with Alex in 2000?

JS: I think the sentiment is the same now that it was back in 2000; that everyone can contribute and help make a difference. The source of that message is different in that so many people are representing ALSF now.

MTW: What lets you know that your customers and contributors are learning what you are trying to teach them?

JS: We know people are learning when they come back again and again to support ALSF in different ways. Sometimes we even hear people recite some of our key messages back to us, like "no donation is too small."


*Photos provided by Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation. Used with permission*

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