(Fort Wayne, IN) JA Biztown -- The students from Whitko's 5th grade classes at Pierceton Elementary and those from Whitko Jr/Sr High School's business class visited Junior Achievement's Biztown and the Finance Park on Friday, December 6th, 2019.
Previous to 2019, Junior Achievements offices were located near Glenbrook Mall behind Kohl's. After a recent campaign, they now have a new location, and a new building specifically designed to their needs, now further north, on 550 E Wallen Road.
That’s when you know a kid has really had an "Aha" moment!
Danielle Tuck, Development Coordinator for Junior Achievment was kind enough to supply a tour of the new facility while students enjoyed the ongoing economy simulations nearby. "I believe JA Biztown is an important education partner for Whitko Community Schools because it gives students the hands on experience of working with money and a taste of what it is like to be an adult," explains Tuck. "It really brings to life the concepts of personal finances and working as part of a community that they learn in the classroom before they arrive. We always have students tell us that they really appreciate all that their parents do -that’s when you know a kid has really had an 'Aha' moment!"
Michelle Bradley and the WJSHS business class were able to pursue various activities throughout JA's Finance Park. Each student was given a brand new iPad to keep track of their day. Included on the iPad was a software specifically formatted to fit the financial exercises the students would engage. The end goal, of course, is to bring enlightenment to students to help them better understand both the scope and direction of the path to their future.
"At Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana, we define our purpose as partnering role models with students to give them a greater belief in their abilities and the inspiration to turn dreams into reality, Tuck elaborated. "We do this by giving kids the knowledge needed to manage their finances and the skills to be career ready, but also by giving them access to our volunteers. The opportunity to see the world through the eyes of a new adult who isn't their parent or teacher and who is giving their time to connect with their generation. It is one of the reasons 1 in 5 JA alumni go on to work in the same field as their JA Volunteer."
"The opportunity to see the world through the eyes of a new adult who isn't their parent or teacher and who is giving their time to connect with their generation. It is one of the reasons 1 in 5 JA alumni go on to work in the same field as their JA Volunteer."
Finance Park is lined with touch screen monitors throughout, and students are encouraged to take an impromptu quiz that helps them determine their unique personality. Based on the quick responses they enter into the quiz, they are given possible career paths and ultimately can even see how the education and career path they choose will lead to a specific salary. Long term, it can also help students project jobs that may be available or in high demand when they enter the work force which should give them an advantage of higher earning potentials.
Available on their website, "Junior Achievement’s high school programs help students make informed, intelligent decisions about their future, and foster skills that will be highly useful in the business world."
Parents wanting to try the quiz for themselves need look no further. Try this link provided here: https://jacareerdiscovery.jani.org/
Across the foyer, JA's Biztown was filled with 5th grade students participating in a micro-economy, on a large scale! Students from Pierceton Elementary each pretended to go to work, earn a payroll check, and make decisions with regard to spending, saving, employee management, and time managment. Each student earned their job placement for the day through applying and then participating in a job interview conducted by their teachers. Pierceton's students also elected a town mayor, Abigail Griffith.
Griffith was given the honor as town mayor of leading the opening ceremonies, and in her own words, she really enjoyed being called "Miss Mayor" throughout the day by her peers. Like many students, Griffith also visited the Biztown Animal Shelter. In the animal shelter, students can take a pet for a walk. While the pets are stuffed animals, the lesson is real. Students are engaging in a sense of civic duty by volunteering their time instead of spending time in other areas of the park.
There were ample opportunities to earn money as well as make purchases during student scheduled break periods. The breaks were given in 3 groupings and each group could look to a large overhead display and read if they were to be at work or on a break. After working to earn their paychecks, each student could visit one of two banks available to cash their checks. After each student notarizes their check with a signature on back, they may spend their avialable funds by using a real debit card specific to the exercise.
In addition to debit cards, CEO's, CFO's, and business owners helped keep pace with the economic exercise by taking direction found on their own personalized iPads. Similar to the senior high students, elementary students who were C-level workers also had iPads at their disposal to help keep the exercise moving forward. It also established a hierarchy of leadership and job perks; similar to a real work environment, where the analogy taught that while sometimes the right tech helps workers complete a job or task, at other times, tech is a sign of social status and job security.
"Seeing the kids in action at JA BizTown® really is the best way to understand the impact of the program." Tuck continued, "The enthusiasm [students] have for doing their jobs well, for spending their money with intention, and for making their business a success in the JA BizTown community is wonderful thing to watch."
Parents looking to go on a field trip with their child in the future should certainly put JA Biztown on their bucket-list! Just be sure to fill out a pre-approved volunteer form, turn it in at your school, and then speak with your child's teacher when they reach 5th grade.
At the end of the day, there was an audible "Awe!" from students, indicating they had both enjoyed the experience, but were sad to see it end.
SEE MORE PHOTOS FROM THE FIELDTRIP!