BizTown is a busy place.
A small town has been created inside the Junior Achievement of Northeast Indiana’s headquarters in Ft. Wayne and welcomes 5th and 6th graders to live and work in the town, and when the students arrive, the din of students’ voices brings the town alive.
Last week, it was the 5th graders from Parkside Elementary who visited BizTown, a JA program that helps teach students more about community economics. Prior to traveling to BizTown, the students were given their jobs, from mayor of BizTown to working in one of 14 businesses. Within each business, there is a CEO, CFO and employees.
Soon after arriving, the town is overrun by students who scurry from business to business, either on their own time or for work. Bills are delivered for rent, advertising, utilities and more. The CFO is busy printing checks and entering numbers, keeping track of the initial business loan each business takes out at the start of the simulation. Employees help customers. It doesn’t stop.
Students earn a paycheck based on the job they have and deposit their pay in the town’s bank. On their personal time, each BizTown resident can take his or her checkbook and must decide what to use their money for.
This is where BizTown’s lessons really come into play. Students are given a variety of choices, from simply shopping for souvenirs at the hardware store to investing in financial services to continuing their education. While they do this, they are tasked with keeping their checkbooks balanced. Soon – too soon for some – they no longer have enough funds left to do what they want and have to wait for the second round of paychecks to be deposited.
Each decision has its pros and cons. Money invested in continuing education means they can’t spend that on other things, but it will increase their paycheck the next time. Or they can purchase a souvenir from BizTown but find they can’t invest money for later use. Some places will only accept their checks, while other items are bought through cash only.
Soon, businesses in BizTown are closing up and doing their final calculations. Have they made enough back to payback their loan? Did they price their products or services correctly to make a profit? Do they have any personal funds left?
For each student, a day running around BizTown gives them the opportunity to find out those answers, as well as give them a taste of life after school when they take on real jobs, have real checking accounts, and the decisions become all too real every day.