Tag Archives: elementary school

Illahee Elementary’s JA BizTown

What emerges after you put 170 fifth graders together in a room for four and a half hours? You get a new generation of kids with financial literacy.

On May 10th, Illahee Elementary School in Vancouver, Wash. will send all six of its fifth grade classes to the Junior Achievement building at 7830 S.E. Foster Road in Portland, Ore. Students will participate in a “JA BizTown” simulation where they learn business management, work readiness, and financial literacy skills.

The Town:

Key Bank, Fred Meyer, Allstate Insurance, NW Natural Gas Company, and the Humane Society number among the 19 private businesses whose storefronts surround the town square.

For kids, a day at JA BizTown is patterned after a somewhat modified day of an adult’s working life. First the Mayor (a student selected by teachers) holds a Town Hall meeting, welcoming the new citizens. Students then report for work to the companies where they have been assigned.

A smattering of the businesses represented at JA BizTown’s facilty in Portland, Oregon.

The Businesses:

Each business has a CFO, a CEO and employees. Businesses owe loans to the bank and need to get supplies and insurance. Company leaders have to manage payroll and staffing, and they must ensure that their companies run profitably. Student workers set up display tables for their wares and provide customer service. Companies solve problems collaboratively during staff meetings.

The Citizens:

Student workers do personal banking, pay bills and visit area stores during breaks. Savings accounts are required as is paying taxes. Classroom teachers have introduced curriculum to prepare the students for the day, covering the role of taxes, philanthropy and personal finances. The day ends with a Town Hall debrief meeting where students share insights.

History of Junior Achievement:

Junior Achievement was founded in 1919, just after World War I out of a meeting of 300 agricultural and business leaders who were most concerned about “…the rural-to-city exodus of the populace.” The group wanted to instill a commitment to citizenship in young people. The Boys and Girls Bureau was born. Many years and iterations later, the Junior Achievement organization offers 23 programs for students from elementary through high school.

Each 176,000 volunteers help to run JA programs throughout the nation. Its national and regional Boards of Directors represent established business people. According to the regional Junior Achievement chapter’s website, last year in Portland and SW Washington, over 29,200 students from 1,054 classrooms benefitted from Junior Achievement programs.

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