Broken Arrow Ledger (Oklahoma)
By: Nour Habib
November 3, 2010
"Citizens, we have a busy day today."
That's how Mayor Katlin Mathis, a fifth-grade student at Rhoades Elementary, sent her schoolmates back to work.
Mathis was elected to serve as mayor during the classes' day at JA Biztown, a miniature city that brings the students' lessons to life. The program is run by Junior Achievement, an organization that educates children about the workforce, the economy and other aspects of financial literacy.
Above all, the program aims to show students the day-to-day applications of what they learn in the classroom.
Elizabeth Conrad, a fifth- grade teacher at Rhoades, said the students "get a little taste for what being an adult is like."
Each student is assigned to a job, which teachers chose for them after an application and "interview" process. Businesses from around town line the edge of the town, and students serve as bank tellers, communications personnel, government officials and nurses.
Throughout the day, kids walk in and out of the bank to cash checks and make deposits.
Construction workers spend their day building a bench, at one point discussing which way a nail should go in so as not to hurt people when they sit down.
"I think it should be the other way," one directed. "Because that way will poke someone in the butt if they sit on it because it's pointy."
At Arby's, workers hand out drinks and cookies. They wear gloves as they handle the food, but then forget to change them after they've taken "money" from their customers.
Workers can also be seen dancing their way through the town square as they head to lunch.
Two workers chatted at the Arby's lunch counter.
"I need to hurry and get back to work," one told the other as he packed up the rest of his food into his lunchbox.
On her lunch break, the mayor was interrupted by a company CEO who needed her signature for a project cost estimate document. Mathis signed it and returned to her sandwich, before heading back to work to "prepare" her afternoon speech.
One student worried that his lunch break cut into his already limited work time. Understandably, Tanner Crosley worked at the newspaper, and was voicing his concern 30 minutes before deadline.
Crosley, an advertising executive for the day, was rushing to get the ads for all the businesses into the paper, expressing dismay about his slow typing skills while he worked.
"I wanted to be the photographer," Crosley said, his eyes flitting from the computer screen to follow a fellow student as he walked around the newsroom with his camera. "But [my teacher] said I would make a good ad executive."
Back to work he went.
But Abigail Carter, a reporter for the paper, assured him that their break was well-deserved.
"Without the break, we'd be overworked," she said as she hurried to finish the two stories she was working on.
Mary Lou Robinson, a JA Biztown instructional coordinator, said the program exposes the kids to real problems that occur in the workplace, such as having an employee call in sick or a coworker take a too-long lunch break.
JA Biztown Director Karen Warlick said the experience encourages kids to stay in school and continue their educations in order to be as successful as possible.
All BAPS elementary schools will participate in the program, after a several-week curriculum taught in the classroom.
Robinson said kids also learn to appreciate their parents' hard work, and have expressed an understanding of why "mom sometimes comes home in a bad mood."
"It's a lot of work," said Mayor Mathis.