University connects fifth graders to business world

By Kim Chaudoin on 10/17/2012

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Fifth graders at Lipscomb Academy are gearing up to run a town for a day, complete with a mayor, CEO of a bank, reporters, a disc jockey, lawyers and other citizens.

Lipscomb Academy fifth-graders prepare for BizTown

This town is unlike others across the country, but has all of the challenges and hustle-and-bustle of a typical city. These students are planning for the opportunity to visit JA BizTown in Nashville, where each day young people experience the responsibilities and opportunities of citizenship in a free enterprise system.

JA BizTown, Junior Achievement's elementary capstone program, helps young people discover, investigate and become productive citizens in a life-size replica of a real town. The students operate the stores, bank, radio station, restaurant, newspaper, realty office, TV station and city hall—all outfitted with modern office equipment and business supplies. During the JA BizTown experience, students learn first-hand what it takes to create a business, run a newspaper, supervise employees and hold elected office, as well as personally earn and manage money.

For the past few weeks, Lipscomb Academy teachers have been preparing the fifth graders to successfully run the town through a variety of social studies, math, language arts, government and economics lessons.

“The students have learned a lot of life skills, like how to write checks, balance their check books, work as a team and a lot of other things. They’ve also learned how to look professional, how to shake someone’s hand properly and other skills that they will need to have as they get older,” said Jill Knott, Lipscomb Academy fifth grade math teacher.

Fifth-grade language arts teacher Jane Thomas agrees.

“This is a great time to teach them these skills and to instill in them good financial practices. This experience also teaches them a lot about where taxes go and how businesses operate,” she said.

To prepare to run JA BizTown, students had to fill out applications and be interviewed for specific jobs in businesses in the town. As part of the University Connection program with Lipscomb University, professors from the College of Business and the College of Professional Studies along with other faculty and staff conducted job interviews with the students on Wed., Oct. 10.

Leanne Smith, assistant professor of management, visited the fifth grade classes before the interview day to give students tips on interviewing and to help them work on their skills.

Randy Spivey, academic director of the Institute for Law, Justice & Society, helped conduct student interviews. He said he encouraged them to be themselves in the interview process.

“It was a good exercise for them to practice being comfortable being themselves. They were able to practice being themselves and not putting on a façade in a conversation with adults,” said Spivey. “They did a really good job with the interview process. It was interesting to see the different personalities of the students emerge during the interview.”

Students said they were a apprehensive about the interview process.

“This was my first time to be interviewed and I was nervous,” said fifth-grader Juliana Bob. “But, I enjoyed it.”

Student Taylor Caldwell, who interviewed for a CEO position, said the interviewer was “really nice,” but that the interview was “nerve-wracking.”

“It’s hard to talk about yourself sometimes,” said student Jacob Deeb, who applied for the disc jockey job in BizTown.

Amy Kim said she learned that she needs to work on her speaking skills during the interview process.

“I was sort of nervous about the interview,” said the fifth-grader. “When I answered some questions I used a lot of ‘like’ and ‘um.” It was hard not to use those words.”

Charla Long, dean of the College of Professional Studies and university liaison to Lipscomb Academy’s fifth grade classes, helped organize the university’s involvement in the BizTown project.

“This is a great opportunity to connect the fifth grade classes to the university. What I try to do is to help supplement the curriculum with additional resources that the university has to offer,” said Long.

Fifth graders will travel to the BizTown location near the Lipscomb campus on Oct. 24 to work in the jobs they have been “hired” to fill and to run the town for a day.