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To market, to market

Sterling Elementary sixth-graders mean business

Posted: Wednesday, February 16, 2000

Peace Place and Sportsville get together once a month for a day of commerce.

Their merchants set up bazaar booths, buying and selling (and sometimes reselling) goods and services. They manage cash flow, plan investments, hone their advertising and grapple with unfair business practices. But the market is not business as usual.

These business people are sixth-graders at Sterling Eleme-tary School, and their "market day" is part of an educational unit on the basics of economics.

"We get real things for fake money," enthused student Sami Plastino. "Textbooks are boring. This is fun."

Teacher April Kaufman explained that the students establish their own society, print their own money, open businesses and create governments. In the process, they learn about entrepreneurship, economics, government, law, math and ethics.

"I personally have found that as a result of this program, the students are anxious to learn more about our government and how it operates both economically and legislatively," she wrote in a letter to parents about the unit.

Families were allowed to spend up to $10 in U.S. currency setting up the businesses.

But from then on, all transactions take place at school in the specialized currencies: "Freaky, Deaky Ghost Bucks" from Peace Place and "Sports Bucks" from Sportsville, emblazoned with the motto "In Sports We Win!"

Thursday morning, the market was in full swing and its young tycoons were in a carnival mood.

Food, crafts and a variety of flea market finds dominated the displays. The market offers a great incentive to redistribute outgrown toys and books.

A group of girls sold raffle tickets for giant stuffed animals. A group of boys rented out electronic games. One boy took Polaroid photos; another made beaded geckos. For a few "dollars," students could slip into a makeshift theater to watch "Tarzan" on video. At the end of the hall, several girls ran an elaborate bingo parlor, with black and colored lights, Valentine decor and a plastic space alien mascot.

Crystal Boehmler passed out penciled business cards reading "Mini Market: brought to you by Ami H. and Crystal B. 'You'll find it at Mini Market!'" The shop was hard to miss in any case, with its flashing Christmas lights and prime, hallway location.

All around, business was brisk.

"We've sold almost everything," said student Scott Ralston.

During an auction, called by counselor Cindy Davis-Bryant, cookies, Beanie Babies and a stack of second-hand Goose-bumps books moved. Bidding got hot, and even the teachers got involved.

"(Students) were shocked at how much more they can make on an auction," Kaufman said later.

The market is more than just fun and profit.

Students discuss experiences -- good and bad -- in debriefing sessions.

Teachers had to draw the line on gambling activity and fine students for unfair business practices. The two little societies had to deal with a counterfeiting incident and a case of inventory vandalism when someone licked the frosting off a set of cupcakes.

Complications mirror the real world and are the essence of the unit.

"I think they are really learning to understand the whole buy-and-sell issue," teacher Tracey Withrow said.

Kaufman and Withrow, who team-teach the sixth-graders, base the market days on a national education program called Mini Society.

The program is new to the Kenai Peninsula but has been used in other parts of the country for a generation, said Steve Jackstadt, director of the Center for Economic Education at the Uni-versity of Alaska Anchorage.

Marilyn Kourilsky, at professor at the University of California at Los Angeles and vice president of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, started the Mini Society project.

The foundation began offering grant funds to train elementary teachers how to use the program. The Alaska Council on Economic Education, aided by matching funds from Arco, began offering the training several years ago through the center at UAA.

Hundreds of Alaska teachers, mostly in Anchorage, have studied the program, and about 60 percent of Anchorage elementary schools are using it, Jackstadt said.

In June, 13 teachers from the Kenai Peninsula took the center's course. Mountain View Elemen-tary in Kenai, North Star Ele-mentary in Nikiski and West Homer Elementary have used Mini Society units.

"It is an absolute first-class program," Jackstadt said. "The comments from teachers are kind of off the charts on how much they like it."

When a teacher understands economics and exploits teachable moments, the unit can give students profound insights into how society functions. And the kids love it, he said.

"The longer the Mini Society goes on, the more imaginative the kids get," he said. "It gives them an understanding of the business world around them."

Kaufman noted that with each passing month, the market days become more sophisticated and complex. She has brought speakers into the class and is introducing more concepts over time, such as the stock market, budgets and regulation.

"Presently, we are deciding which type of government we would like to establish, while exploring the basis of democracy, republic, dictatorship and other forms," she said. "And, no, I won't be the authoritarian."

CAPTION:Above, these five Sterling Elementary sixth-graders set up a store selling everything from cookies to juice as part of their Market Day course. From left, the merchants are Cathy Slagill, Robbie Caye Zimmerman, Alexa Walsh, Malissa Nichols and Onya Schouwiler.

At left, merchants Britni Smith, left, and Kelsie Wright conduct a little business in their "store" during Market Day at Sterling Elementary. Customers include Amy Himmel, Shelly Heffner and JohnMichael Revis.

BYLINE1:By SHANA LOSHBAUGH

BYLINE2:Peninsula Clarion

Peace Place and Sportsville get together once a month for a day of commerce.

Their merchants set up bazaar booths, buying and selling (and sometimes reselling) goods and services. They manage cash flow, plan investments, hone their advertising and grapple with unfair business practices. But the market is not business as usual.

These business people are sixth-graders at Sterling Eleme-tary School, and their "market day" is part of an educational unit on the basics of economics.

"We get real things for fake money," enthused student Sami Plastino. "Textbooks are boring. This is fun."

Teacher April Kaufman explained that the students establish their own society, print their own money, open businesses and create governments. In the process, they learn about entrepreneurship, economics, government, law, math and ethics.

"I personally have found that as a result of this program, the students are anxious to learn more about our government and how it operates both economically and legislatively," she wrote in a letter to parents about the unit.

Families were allowed to spend up to $10 in U.S. currency setting up the businesses.

But from then on, all transactions take place at school in the specialized currencies: "Freaky, Deaky Ghost Bucks" from Peace Place and "Sports Bucks" from Sportsville, emblazoned with the motto "In Sports We Win!"

Thursday morning, the market was in full swing and its young tycoons were in a carnival mood.

Food, crafts and a variety of flea market finds dominated the displays. The market offers a great incentive to redistribute outgrown toys and books.

A group of girls sold raffle tickets for giant stuffed animals. A group of boys rented out electronic games. One boy took Polaroid photos; another made beaded geckos. For a few "dollars," students could slip into a makeshift theater to watch "Tarzan" on video. At the end of the hall, several girls ran an elaborate bingo parlor, with black and colored lights, Valentine decor and a plastic space alien mascot.

Crystal Boehmler passed out penciled business cards reading "Mini Market: brought to you by Ami H. and Crystal B. 'You'll find it at Mini Market!'" The shop was hard to miss in any case, with its flashing Christmas lights and prime, hallway location.

All around, business was brisk.

"We've sold almost everything," said student Scott Ralston.

During an auction, called by counselor Cindy Davis-Bryant, cookies, Beanie Babies and a stack of second-hand Goose-bumps books moved. Bidding got hot, and even the teachers got involved.

"(Students) were shocked at how much more they can make on an auction," Kaufman said later.

The market is more than just fun and profit.

Students discuss experiences -- good and bad -- in debriefing sessions.

Teachers had to draw the line on gambling activity and fine students for unfair business practices. The two little societies had to deal with a counterfeiting incident and a case of inventory vandalism when someone licked the frosting off a set of cupcakes.

Complications mirror the real world and are the essence of the unit.

"I think they are really learning to understand the whole buy-and-sell issue," teacher Tracey Withrow said.

Kaufman and Withrow, who team-teach the sixth-graders, base the market days on a national education program called Mini Society.

The program is new to the Kenai Peninsula but has been used in other parts of the country for a generation, said Steve Jackstadt, director of the Center for Economic Education at the Uni-versity of Alaska Anchorage.

Marilyn Kourilsky, at professor at the University of California at Los Angeles and vice president of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, started the Mini Society project.

The foundation began offering grant funds to train elementary teachers how to use the program. The Alaska Council on Economic Education, aided by matching funds from Arco, began offering the training several years ago through the center at UAA.

Hundreds of Alaska teachers, mostly in Anchorage, have studied the program, and about 60 percent of Anchorage elementary schools are using it, Jackstadt said.

In June, 13 teachers from the Kenai Peninsula took the center's course. Mountain View Elemen-tary in Kenai, North Star Ele-mentary in Nikiski and West Homer Elementary have used Mini Society units.

"It is an absolute first-class program," Jackstadt said. "The comments from teachers are kind of off the charts on how much they like it."

When a teacher understands economics and exploits teachable moments, the unit can give students profound insights into how society functions. And the kids love it, he said.

"The longer the Mini Society goes on, the more imaginative the kids get," he said. "It gives them an understanding of the business world around them."

Kaufman noted that with each passing month, the market days become more sophisticated and complex. She has brought speakers into the class and is introducing more concepts over time, such as the stock market, budgets and regulation.

"Presently, we are deciding which type of government we would like to establish, while exploring the basis of democracy, republic, dictatorship and other forms," she said. "And, no, I won't be the authoritarian."



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