I’ve been kicking around Prensky’s book, “Don’t Bother Me Mom – I’m Learning!”, and he talks about computer simulations and their impact on learning (teacher sense is tingling … this might be a future podcast … or Troy is getting ready to spitball me …) and am reminded that there are physical simulations out there for middle schools as well.
Experientia provides a couple of simulations and encounters at facilities around the country. One of them is Exchange City. Students work through an economics curriculum (think Junior Achievement) in preparation for a day at Exchange City. Students man the shops, provide the labor, consume the goods produced, take out loans, pay for utilities, run a credit union, create and abide city laws, and exercise the franchise through City Hall. Some of the program is scripted, but the rest is a limited microcosm of Adam Smith’s invisible hand. Students experience the red tape of City Hall and the loan process, maintaining a checkbook, earning a “paycheck”, overdrafting (“Impossible, I have checks left!”) and the need to market as well arrange for supplies to produce. There are several goals for each student. Some are entrepreneurs and have to be concerned about turning a profit or at least paying back their initial loan. All have to worry about spending their paychecks without going over their limits. Students have to learn to manage their time and be back from breaks so that others can take theirs. If the entire shop goes on break, staff have been known to go into a shop and take supplies or inventory. They truly have to “mind the store.”
The curriculum includes a post-trip reflection piece that involves looking at the individual accounts for each student and each business. A post-trip business meeting yields interesting conversation analyzing each group’s business plan.
This is also an excellent community service project for high school seniors who are willing to be volunteers in each of the businesses assisting the middle school students as they work through their work day.
There are Exchange City locations in Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Tennesee. You can view each state location here. I’m partial to Stacey Mehler. She’s always a great help. If you give them a hollar, mention you saw Exchange City on Middle School Matters.