Sheri Baktuit, seen here with her second-grade class last week, utilizes Junior Achievement classes periodically throughout the school year. Junior Achievement classes are practical lessons in local economics and business.
Photo courtesy of Febra Hensley
Sherri Baktuit, second-grade teacher at Soldotna Elementary School, has found that students respond to learning through real, personal experience and she decided to capitalize on that through a national program celebrating its 32nd year in Alaska.
The Junior Achievement program brings community members into the classroom and brings the classroom into the community. Baktuit is in her third year of utilizing the program with her second-grade class to help them understand the economics of life by connecting business with education.
"I was actually in Junior Achievement in high school. It was a chance to do some hands-on learning. They were things that we would remember more than if we were taught out of a textbook," she said.
Baktuit and her classmates made note pads and miniature log cabins they sold for profit in area businesses.
"It was fun to apply what we learned in a real-world kind of way," she said.
As a teacher, Baktuit sees the importance of educating through experiences as opposed to textbooks.
"Kids remember the lesson more it they are actively involved. That's why I wanted Junior Achievement to be in my class. It's good for kids to have someone from their community come in and speak about what they do because their attention level doubles when there's a guest," she said.
Guest speakers, from antler carvers to managers of bigger businesses, are locals who make livings with the special skills they have attained. This week, Mike Bloeser, home manager at Fred Meyer, will be a guest speaker for Junior Achievement classes. He has been talking to second-graders about making sense of local economies. Bloeser brings a chart of a mock community students become part of.
"There is a burrito company, a laundromat, a flower shop, city workers and officials, Marines, police and firefighters," he said.
The exercise has several purposes, including showing how taxes work locally. Bloeser demonstrates that, without taxes on citizens' wages, the community could not afford a fire department or police on their own.
Bloeser uses a donut factory within the mock city to demonstrate how assembly lines speed up industry and how money circulates through the economy.
"This is just fun. It really is fun. They get all happy when I walk through the door," he said.
Bloeser said the kids are learning quickly from one day to the next and he is quite surprised at how well the kids are catching on.
Baktuit said helping young people make those connections is powerful.
"The kids would have no other dealings with manager other than possibly seeing one at the store. This is a neat way for the kids to see Mike and connect him with the real world," Baktuit said. "It's neat to see that community people care."
She said the once a week, one hour per day classes are good for students because there is no other program like it within the schools. Junior Achievement has 17 classes in local schools this week around the Kenai Peninsula.
"The main objective is for kids to learn about careers, and how their parents are involved in the community. Students respond better when they see parents involved. It's a proven fact that kids do better when parents share their talents with the schools."
She said she wants her students to have the real world in the classroom because they will eventually have to use what they learn in life.
"It just opens up a whole new world," she said. "Most kids are thirsty for knowledge, and when someone comes in with new knowledge, they really soak it up."
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