Year one of Junior Achievement a huge success

In January of 2018, Marshalltown Schools began its implementation of Junior Achievement (JA) with kindergarten through fifth grade. Since that time, 94 volunteers have been paired with 128 classrooms to deliver lessons provided by Junior Achievement. Fifty-three businesses in the Marshalltown area have supported this movement by allowing their employees to visit classrooms during the school day to build relationships with our students and teach them about financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship. In total, these volunteers have gifted our students with over 443 hours of their precious time. We so value this investment in our schools.

After teaching five lessons in their assigned classroom, we asked our volunteers what they thought of the experience. One volunteer shared, “The support from the teacher and principal was excellent. It made me feel welcome and that they appreciated what the program brings to the students.” Another pointed out, “The material provided by JA was great. It provided everything I needed to prepare for my lessons.” Yet another shared that “the best part was watching the kids learn new concepts and find excitement about the future possibilities.”

But it wasn’t just the volunteers who found this experience to be valuable. Our teachers praised this program as well. Two teachers share their thoughts below:

“The kids were easily engaged with the activities and loved having a visitor in our class. It was perfectly timed for the curriculum we were learning in class – very relatable for students.”

“It’s a wonderful process to watch and be a part of at the same time. We will miss our JA volunteer dearly and hope that he comes back to visit.”

At the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, we added a capstone Junior Achievement program for sixth graders. This JA program is unique, because teachers deliver the instruction in the classroom. Students spent about three weeks at the beginning of the school year learning about banking, citizenship and voting, careers and interviewing skills and business management. At the end of the unit, students traveled to JA BizTown at the Junior Achievement of Central Iowa building in Des Moines. Fifty-eight volunteers joined us there over the course of six days to support students in their businesses for the day. Each group of students spent one full day in a simulated, fully interactive town where they worked at their job and took earned breaks during which they deposited their “paycheck” at the bank, made purchases, invested their money and donated to a chosen charity.

Following this experience, we heard from several parents. One of them shared this about her son’s participation, “It was a great experience. My son has never been so excited for something academic at school. He says he knows he wants to major in finance now. He absolutely loved the whole program.” Another parent, who is also a JA volunteer, shared, “I recently had the privilege of volunteering for my son’s class trip to JA BizTown. The various stations are well thought out, realistic and challenged the students in a fun setting. The hands-on learning opportunity was unique and I appreciated the opportunity to be involved.”

Teachers also saw great benefits with this program, as stated by one sixth grade teacher, “The students loved their time at BizTown and I was proud of how hard they worked and how well they worked together. I truly enjoyed watching and helping the students. It was great experience for them.”

Marshalltown Schools have had great success implementing Junior Achievement with all of our kindergarten through sixth grade students. Our next step is to begin implementation with seventh and eighth graders at Miller Middle School later this spring. Emerson has committed to provide fifteen volunteers on May 14, 2019 to partner with us in teaching the Global Marketplace to our seventh grade students through a “JA in a Day” event. Fifteen additional community volunteers from our finance, business and insurance sectors have committed to helping our eighth grade social studies teachers implement JA Finance Park. This will be great preparation for our students as they go on to the high school and pursue the new graduation requirement of having successfully completed a Financial Literacy class.

It takes a large amount of engaged community members to ensure the success of this program. We would love to hear from anyone who is wanting to get involved. We know you will enjoy yourself and get to know some amazing kids in the process. Please feel free to me at efinders@marshalltown.k12.ia.us or call me at 641-754-1000 for more information.

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Erica Finders is PK-6 Curriculum and Professional Development Leader for Marshalltown Schools.