Mock Town Provides Real-World Lessons

With BizTown, schoolkids learn real life and business skills by becoming leaders within a simulated community.

New Jersey students are buzzing about BizTown, a no-cost program created by Junior Achievement—a global K-12 education nonprofit—to help schoolkids acquire life and business skills.

During the last school year, 281 fifth-and sixth-grade students from four New Jersey schools took part in the BizTown pilot program. More than 1,600 students from 16 schools are enrolled for the new school year.

The students take 10 weeks of classroom lessons before participating in a field trip to a microcosmic community hosted by real-estate developer Advance Realty in Bridgewater. There, the simulated town’s mayor is sworn in, and students take their posts at one of the 14 mock BizTown businesses, serving as CEOs, CFOs, retail associates, restaurant servers and more.

But it’s not all business in BizTown. Students deposit “paychecks” for BizTown Cash, with which they can buy retail goods or restaurant snacks. They also stop at the MetLife Service Center to buy health insurance. (The MetLife Foundation granted the program $1 million in start-up funds.)

“Students gain real-life skills through hands-on, experiential learning, and they learn the importance of each job and how every job impacts the economy and society,” says Dawn Schwartz, senior vice president of Junior Achievement.

Schwartz says schools are “breaking down the doors” to get their students involved in JA BizTown and its high school counterpart, JA Finance Park, because it’s a fun and effective way for students to earn state-mandated credits. Finance Park counts for the 2.5 credits of financial literacy needed for high school graduation; BizTown hours count toward requirements for English, math and social studies.

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