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Taking care of business at 'Biztown'

New Life Academy fifth graders dressed up for their day at Biztown in Maplewood last week. The students participated in the simulation program to learn more about working in the "real world." Submitted photo.

A group of New Life Academy fifth graders got a taste last week of what the "real world" might be like when they participated in a simulation program called BizTown in Maplewood. The event is put on by an organization called Junior Achievement.

Lake Middle School sixth graders also participated in BizTown recently.

During the BizTown simulation, which is designed for grades 4-6, students are assigned a job that they will have, a list of responsibilities they will have as employees and citizens, work with money and they get to see a community at work.

"The students get to think about their futures in that way by getting that first taste of trying on a job -- being an adult for a day," said Jennifer Baldwin, who helps organize the BizTown event. "They really get to see how the community works. It gets into appreciation for what the real world work is like."

NLA students have been making the BizTown field trip for the past four years.

From classroom to community

Prior to going to BizTown, NLA students went through several weeks of curriculum in the classrooms that prepared them for the simulation.

Fifth grade history teacher, Cindy Baar, said the curriculum was divided up into three weeks -- economics and community, jobs and business planning.

"We really felt like these skills were a good thing for them to start to have

and BizTown is perfect because this simulation really brings it home for them," Baar said.

During the first week students learned about grown up stuff like taxes, public goods and services, personal finances, and rights and responsibilities of citizens.

The second week had students starting to think about which job they wanted to have at BizTown -- whether that was the café, the bank, city hall, the radio station, the newspaper, the construction center, the supply and delivery center, the discovery center, the wellness/fitness center, the business service center, the property management company, the gift store, the international shop and the grocery store.

"They all want to be the beverage manager, the food manager, the deejay, the newspaper reporter or the CEO -- there's those certain jobs that they think are kinda cool," Baar said. "Though, no matter what you're doing, you're still going to get to participate."

The job-related curriculum had students interview for the jobs that they wanted, craft a resume and talk about job skills.

"The teachers do a good job recognizing the skills that the students may not necessarily see in themselves yet," Baldwin said.

During the final week, students split up into their business groups and started planning their businesses -- they designed their advertisements, they calculated business costs, employee salaries and learned how to apply for a loan.

Creating a community

In addition to performing the responsibilities of whatever job they are assigned and running a business, the students must also work within some of the scenarios that they find themselves in. For example, there is an election that they must vote on.

Additionally, students must deposit their checks, and then they have the opportunity to go through BizTown and shop. They are able to keep everything they purchase.

"They're learning overall the big picture of the community," Baldwin said, adding that she is always impressed to see how much these students step up to their responsibilities and really take their jobs seriously. Some even wear business suits.

Barr said, in addition to learning a lot of these skills that are essential, she said BizTown also teaches students to appreciate their parents more.

"They all say at the end that they appreciate how hard their parents work," she said.

BizTown will be holding a summer camp June 21-24. For more information, contact Jennifer Baldwin at (651) 255-0037 or

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

(651) 702-0976