The MicroSociety project running at Red Deer’s Aspen Heights Elementary School is the sort of program that prompts people to say, ‘I wish they had that when I went to school’.
The program has students create their own society, complete with businesses, government, and even a police force, all while interacting with the regular curriculum.
“MicroSociety allows them to get out of their desks and become involved,” says Allan Baile, teacher and MicroSociety coordinator at the school, “we’re doing language arts to make business presentations, we use math for accounting, and science for environmental projects.”
“MicroSociety teaches about our economy, how it functions, and about financial literacy. But it also teaches life skills where the students are taught how to work, lead employees and even become entrepreneurs who start their own businesses.”
The students draft a constitution and laws, elect a Premier and MLAs for each classroom, create businesses, hire employees, sell products, pay rent and taxes – they have their own currency, and a police force to enforce the laws.
“It’s a whole school project,” says Baile. “Every student is involved from K to Grade 5 – we find a place for them, and all the staff participate, as well.”
Over the years, the students have created a range of initiatives: a hydroponic growing operation supplying four young chefs with salad materials; the ACE Theatre, which puts on skits and plays and sells tickets, or a company producing and selling dreamcatchers.
“We’ve had some ventures that went bankrupt – failure is a big part of the experience,” says Baile. “The students vote with their feet and they’re allowed to quit their jobs. We just try to make it as real world as possible.”
Now in its tenth year at Aspen Heights, Baile and now-retired Milt Williams first discovered MicroSociety International in the United States and visited two schools in California. “We took a number of our teachers on a training course and adapted the ideas to make them Canadian,” he says.
To make this happen, Baile turns to the local business community. They’ve had bank managers visit the classroom to talk about investments and saving money, and students have gone on a field trip to view a warehouse operation. “We have a ton of support from service groups and businesses – both financially, and in-kind,” he says, “but we always need to develop more community partners with business people who are willing to share their knowledge.”
Knowledge sharing has been key to MicroSociety’s success, and the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce has been instrumental in helping develop local relationships. The community chamber has also brought MicroSociety to the attention of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce (ACC).
“We see MicroSociety as a great opportunity for young people to prepare for the world of work and community leadership,” says Ken Kobly, President and CEO of the ACC, which is actively promoting the program not only to other Chambers, but also to senior educators, and recently facilitated a meeting for Alberta Education Minister, David Eggen, to visit Aspen Heights and MicroSociety in early February this year.
For his part, Baile has already begun to share MicroSociety with schools in Spruce Grove and Spirit River, and Kobly says that the Medicine Hat Chamber is also interested in the program.
“We’ve talked for years about skills initiatives to prepare young people for their first or second jobs, how to be engaged voters, and this program is a great tool for building healthy communities.”
To learn more about how you can be part of building healthy communities, visit voteprosperityab.com
This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Alberta Chambers of Commerce
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