Kohl’s grant pays to send Ozaukee students on field trip to education center
About 100 fourth and fifth-graders from Ozaukee Elementary School in Fredonia gained valuable insights into what makes the business world tick Friday during a visit to the Junior Achievement Kohl’s Education Center in Milwaukee.
The cost of the outing was covered by a Kohl’s Cares Field Trip Grant.
The grant program allows schools to tap into a $750,000 pool of money during the 2013-14 school year to pay for educational experiences that aren’t covered by tight school budgets.
The education center is a modern facility paid for by corporate donations to Junior Achievement, and particularly a $3 million gift from the Kohl’s Cares foundation.
The Northern Ozaukee outing took the students to a hands-on business simulation called BizTown. Prior to the field trip, students were exposed to a personal finance curriculum developed by Junior Achievement.
In addition to BizTown, the center has another simulated community lab for older students called Finance Park.
During the field trip, Northern Ozaukee students learned the challenges of running a small city by operating a bank, restaurant, retail store, newspaper and even City Hall.
Once students arrived at the center, they were assigned jobs and were responsible for tracking their own finances, paying bills and taxes and maintaining a checkbook.
Although the experience may be seen as a morning of make believe by some, organizers and teachers hope it offers some valuable real-world lessons.
Teacher Colleen McShane-Meyer and teacher’s aide Tania Mader have been working with the class on the Junior Achievement curriculum so the students knew what to expect.
“We saw this as a fabulous opportunity to help kids expand their school into a real-world setting — Extending it beyond the classroom and making it come alive,” McShane-Meyer said.
She said the BizTown lessons dovetail with the Common Core standards the Fredonia school district is teaching.
“It is one thing to teach kids math skills, but another to bring those skills into a real-world experience,” McShane-Meyer said.
Prior to the field trip, students applied for various jobs — filling out forms and having them reviewed by teachers.
“The job application process was eye-opening for the students. Teaching kids how to manipulate a form like this and filling out the application is a lesson in itself,” McShane-Meyer said.
One of the biggest lessons students learned was to think about their own strengths and skills so they make better decisions on which jobs to pursue, she said.
Students quickly grasped the life lessons offered during the day.
“This is awesome. Now I know what it’s like to work at a job and act like a parent,” said student Nick Mueller.
Learning those kinds of practical life lessons is what BizTown is all about, according to Tim Greinert, president of Junior Achievement Wisconsin.
“It is hard to find too many organizations in our community that aren’t concerned about the availability of a quality future work force coupled with an education system that is as strong as it can be,” Greinert said.
“Through their financial and volunteer support of Junior Achievement, hundreds of local companies are able to make a measurable difference in both of these areas while building a stronger, more loyal employee base.”
He said the state-of-the-art learning center creates a stimulating environment where students gain exposure to “what it takes to run a business and also to earn and manage their own money.”
Principal Cindy Dallman said the BizTown visit was the culmination of weeks of study of basic economics.
“Students were excited and engaged from the beginning. The simulation last Friday was great to watch,” Dallman said.
“Students received salaries, paid taxes, banked and were consumers. They were able to purchase items using JA cash, debit cards and checks. Students were very serious about the experience. I am sure this was an experience they will remember for a long time.”
Northern Ozaukee Supt. Blake Peuse said he was impressed by the practical lessons that are promoted by Junior Achievement and its education center.
“I applaud the efforts that Junior Achievement is putting forth to advance the concepts of business entrepreneurship, critical thinking and financial literacy,” Peuse said.
“Helping our students from a young age understand what it is to be a consumer and producer in the world of business is essential to maintain a strong footing in the global economy.”
Image Information: OZAUKEE ELEMENTARY FIFTH-GRADERS took on workplace responsibilities Friday, during a field trip to the Junior Achievement Kohl’s Education Center in Milwaukee. Above, Mason Norwood, acting as Harley-Davidson CEO, handled a sale to Brent Lederer (right), as employee Grace Tinder was on a break.