Lewis-Arriola Elementary students have set up shop in Alison Robinson’s classroom.
It’s part of the “Our Town” project she started when she began working at the school six years ago, as part of an effort to teach students financial literacy. Students operate their own businesses and learn the financial ins and outs, from balancing a checkbook to calculating sales tax.
“It is the most incredible thing we do all year,” said Robinson, who teaches fifth grade at the school.
Essentially, students run their own town. At the beginning of the project, fifth graders submit job applications and are interviewed by Robinson, who then selects them for their respective positions.
Businesses and jobs vary – Our Town includes a pet shop, restaurant, insurance agent, real estate broker and auto dealer.
Makaya Higgins runs the local bank, where all the business owners go to deposit checks. Being a banker is meticulous work, Higgins said, requiring exact tracking.
At any given time, half the class will operate their shops, while the other half will shop.
The weekslong project is beneficial in multiple ways, Robinson said. Students are able to learn financial and organizational skills, see real-world applications of math and understand the intricacies of business operations.
And although Robinson tells her students that she is the mayor and police officer of Our Town, the fifth graders are the ones who really run the show.
“They’re very self-sufficient,” she said.