Lessons in economics and business are all in a hard day’s work for fifth graders at Beaver Creek Elementary.
With some students working in hard hats, others in suits, and still more in company-branded visors, fifth graders spent a day at the Junior Achievement “Biz Town,” located in Des Moines. They work for their various organizations – banks, a stock company, the electric company, a convenience store, and more – putting their knowledge of business operations, finance, and company rules to the test.
A day in Biz Town is the culminating lesson for fifth graders, who spend six weeks and four units studying various aspects of economics. In addition to learning about the Bill of Rights and the rights and responsibilities of being a good citizen, students delve into the lessons on the circular flow of the economy.
“Students love these units and working with Biz Town,” said Beaver Creek fifth grader teacher Josh Shaver. “There is a lot of simulation and scenario exercises that make the learning much more realistic, such as learning how to balance a checkbook, going through a wants and needs checklist for a family, or creating a product that consumers will buy so their company has money to operate.”
Shaver went on to explain that when most people think of economics, hands-on learning doesn’t always come to mind.
“When they are working in the businesses and going through these exercises such as making deposits, buying and selling stock, checking in with the electrical company, and marketing their business to others, it becomes very real to them,” Shaver said. “Hands-on learning very much enhances this early experience with economics.”
With 14 different businesses in Biz Town, students have the opportunity to work for a variety of different companies and claim roles within those companies, such as CEO and CFO. Biz Town also has appointed city positions like a mayor and district attorney. Rachel Minnaert was selected as the district attorney and said the role was right up her alley.
“We have two cases to work on – one is about solving a crime of stolen things and the other is about personal injury and that person trying to collect money,” Minnaert said. “I like trying to find out information and making the right decision about the cases.”
Nikita Deymich donned a business suit for his role as a stock broker. After presenting fellow students with three options of stocks, he was in charge of keeping track of what students purchased each stock and what dividends they earned or lost.
“Stocks are really interesting to me,” Deymich said. “I didn’t know that you could earn or lose money off of a business you didn’t own. “Teaching others about the different stocks is fun. It makes me feel like I have a real job.”
And a real job it is. Fifth grade teacher Jessie Johnson explained all that the students must consider when setting up their businesses.
“They must look at operating costs, employee salaries, business loans, interest rates on those loans, and even a 2 percent payroll tax,” Johnson said, “There are many functions of business that these kids are exposed to at an early age. And while economics are part of their Core Curriculum standards, their level of understanding and engagement on these topics and the circular flow of the economy is huge.”
All agree – the work in Biz Town is job well done.