Last week, the mayor spent her day giving interviews for the camera, posing for photo ops, listening to constituents’ concerns, and doing a lot of paperwork.
No, it was not a day in the life of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake at City Hall. It was a day at Junior Achievement’s BizTown.
A group of fourth graders from the Patterson Park Public Charter School (PPPCS) paid a visit to Junior Achievement’s mini metropolis and business education center in Owings Mills last week.
The mayor of BizTown was Natalia Carranza.
“I liked being mayor because I was in charge of the city,” she says. “The paperwork didn’t bother me because I like helping people.”
The town treasurer was Ida Dierker, who says being a town treasurer involves writing a lot of checks. “Honestly, I’d rather be a park ranger, but BizTown doesn’t have park rangers, so this was ok.”
Jodi Blake, fourth-grade teacher at PPPCS says a day at BizTown dovetails nicely with the curriculum at PPPCS, which is focused on experiential learning.
“We visit BizTown during our social studies ‘Going Governmental’ unit, which includes learning about branches of government and paying taxes,” Blake says.
Before visiting BizTown, children also study different aspects of running a business, such as marketing. “They created T.V. commercials, a web page, and radio spots,” says Blake.
At BizTown, the children get hired to work at businesses such as the bank, radio station, health insurance company, café, or in government. Every business has a CEO and CFO.
“It’s very real-world. Every job has a check list of duties, and the children start working immediately. Even the children who are goofy in class, take it pretty seriously,” Blake explains.
The little workers get paid twice and get two breaks—one for lunch (they ate takeout pizza in Biztown’s mock café) and one for shopping.
“Shopping is fun, but stuff is so expensive,” says Umi Marshall, CEO of the radio station.
But BizTown residents learn about more than earning money and spending it. The citizenry make important grownup decisions, such as whether to buy health insurance or pay for a college education
“If they get a degree —University of Phoenix is a sponsor—they get a larger salary, but they have to pay for the degree first,” says Blake.
As for insurance, the children can pay 50 cents for health insurance they might not need—a random number of BizTown residents are assigned “injuries” or “illnesses”—or skip it, and pay four dollars (half the highest weekly salary) later for hospital bills if they get sick.
“Someone got a broken arm,” says Marshall. “I bought the insurance for myself, but some kids didn’t want to spend the money.”
After a four-hour day at BizTown, the students learned some valuable lessons about commerce and employment, Blake says.
“They realize how hard their parents work, for one thing. They also learn about saving money. Some of our kids can now fill out their own deposit slips.”
The fourth-graders also learned the importance of citizenship, good business practices, and public service. The mayor gives out awards to the Citizen of the Day and Best Business.
by Danielle Sweeney