Junior Achievement volunteers bring economic lessons to Chicago Park School | TheUnion.com

Junior Achievement volunteers bring economic lessons to Chicago Park School

Liz Kellar | Staff Writer

On a dreary, rain-soaked morning, Robin Johnston's third-grade class is focused on money.

Specifically, they are intently figuring out the kind of equation that, frankly, might stump a lot of adults — the amount of tax they owe on specific items.

The lesson plan for the day for all grade levels at Chicago Park School Thursday was about building a community, city planning and city government, courtesy of the nationwide Junior Achievement Program, a national nonprofit that aims to teach youth financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work readiness.

Johnston points to a model city her students have just finished building, with a restaurant, a bookstore, a hotel, a school and a farm all placed within their respective zoning areas.

Third-grader Brooklyn Fortin picked out and decorated the hotel, which she named Hotel Transylvania.

"I think it would be close to the airport in case someone had to rush out … and leave straight in the morning," Fortin said. "That way, they'd be close to the airport."

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Johnston, who is the coordinator for the Junior Achievement program for the entire school, "put a lot of hours in" to organizing the program, said Principal Katie Kohler.

"Once I looked into it, I realized what a fantastic program it is," Johnston said. "It's important for students to understand money and our global economy."

Now in its second year at Chicago Park School. The program serves more than 4.8 million students per year across the country; the Sacramento chapter of the program has been in operation for more than 50 years. JA's volunteer-delivered, kindergarten-12th grade programs use experiential learning.

The volunteer teacher in Johnston's class is Nicole Box, the branch manager at the downtown Grass Valley Wells Fargo Bank. Last year was her first time, she said, saying, "It was really, really fun."

"The program provides everything," Box said. "Each grade level has different topics. We plan activities … We talk about planning a city, like do you want to have an airport by a school? Probably not."

They learn about simple topics like coin denominations and more complex ones, such as tax revenue.

"Why is it important for a city to have money?" Box asked the class.

"So they can pay for roads and bridges," came one girl's answer.

One part of the session has students discussing different ways to pay for goods and services — "buy now, pay now" options such as cash, electronic debit and checks, as well as "buy now, pay later" methods of credit.

As a longtime teacher — more than 20 years at Chicago Park — Johnston is well aware that it's hard for students to focus on one topic all day long. She gives full props to the JA program for keeping them enthused, noting, "The kids are so receptive — they love learning about money."

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lkellar@theunion.com.

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For more information about the Junior Achievement program, go online to http://www.juniorachievement.org.

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