INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Connecting the dots between what children learn in school and how it’s applied in the real world can be difficult, but one organization in Central Indiana is making it simpler with its indoor city, BizTown.
BizTown, a facility and program operated by Junior Achievement of Central Indiana, serves as a microcosm of the real world, featuring 15 businesses – including a bank, restaurant, utility company and mayor’s office – that children operate in a day-long visit.
“This program is geared toward fifth and sometimes sixth graders and it gives them a real-life experience of coming in and running one of these 15 businesses,” says Jennifer Burk, president and CEO of Junior Achievement.
The BizTown field trip is the culmination of a 20-hour curriculum taught in the classroom. It’s tied to Indiana academic standards and includes preparing a resume, interviewing for a job and running the town facility.
Every business within BizTown has a CEO, a CFO and other jobs that give kids a breadth of career options they might consider in the future.
Jenna Springirth, 11, serves as a medical nurse at the BizTown version of Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital.
“I usually do the eye test, then I measure how tall they are. I weigh them, then I check their temperature,” says Springirth.
Springirth says exposure to different business has been a fun learning experience but she really enjoys the personal finance lessons.
“They teach you how to do checks because last time I came here, I was with my school and couldn’t really understand the checks and stuff, so I got really confused, and then this year they helped me more with the checks and I really liked it,” says Springirth.
Personal finance is a cornerstone of many of the nearly 25 programs presented by Junior Achievement.
“There’s a lot of opportunity to learn about managing your personal finances, so every student gets a paycheck, they maintain their checking account, they buy the products and services that are for sale here at JA BizTown,” says Burk.
Grace Spear, a rising seventh grader at CFI #27, serves as a junior counselor at BizTown, which means she floats from business to business to help kids with their jobs.
“Once you come here, you really do learn about money, philanthropy, entrepreneurship, things like that that you could have a career with your life,” says Spear.
“Its really fun because we get to print fake bills and have our own checkbooks and fake cash. And it’s just really fun to learn how to manage your money and have a different checking account and bank account,” says Maya Cuiunpoole, whose job at BizTown was to do experiments at Lilly.
Since its inception in 1957, the Indianapolis chapter of Junior Achievement has educated close to 1 million children in Central Indiana. In the 2013-14 school year, the organization reached 19,500 students through their more than 20 programs.
“Our goal is really to expose kids to a whole breadth of career options and pathways, inspire them to believe in their potential, and to dream big and know there are people to help them accomplish their goals,” says Burk.