3,000 Alief ISD Students Experience Inner Workings of Simulated City

  • Overhead photo of Biztown at the Career Center


    Approximately 3,000 students in Alief ISD will not have to follow the rules for the next couple of months. In fact, they will get to set their own rules thanks to a partnership with Junior Achievement that will allow these students to
    participate in the BizTown program.

    The BizTown experience combines in-class learning with a day-long visit to a simulated town. This popular program allows intermediate and middle school students to operate banks, manage restaurants, write checks, and vote
    for mayor. Students will also set their own “town laws” and have police officers enforce those laws. Tickets may be given for fines such as jaywalking, running or loitering.

    “BizTown sparks initiative and critical thinking in students as they take full responsibility for their roles. Seeing them in action as they collaborate to problem solve and come up with a plan of action is really exciting as teachers
    are constantly trying to cultivate this in the classroom,” said Amy Coleman-Diaz, principal at Mata Intermediate School. “The BizTown experience allows them to take this practice out of the classroom and apply it to a make shift,
    meaningful real world setting.”

    The BizTown experience is housed at the Center for Advanced Careers for a total of 13 weeks. More than 100 students per day actually run the town and develop skills such as:

    • Discussing the roles they play as citizens, workers and consumers in their community and relate those roles to the free enterprise system.
    • Discussing the importance of citizen rights and responsibilities in a community.
    • Demonstrating a basic understanding of the free enterprise system.
    • Building money management skills through a practical knowledge of economic concepts and banking practices.
    • Developing an understanding of basic business practices and responsibilities.
    • Displaying the soft skills necessary for successful participation in the world of work.

    “The program helps students connect the dots between what they learn in school and the real world,” said Nancy Mayo, program manager of the Alief Junior Achievement BizTown. “At Alief JA BizTown, students have the rare
    opportunity to experience their personal financial futures first-hand. Here, students participate in an immersive simulation that enables them to develop skills to successfully navigate today’s complex economic environment and
    discover how decisions today can impact tomorrow.”

    Program concepts of BizTown include: advertising, business management, careers, check register, circular flow, economics, financial institutions, financial transactions, free enterprise, goods and services, interests and skills, jobs,
    operating costs, payment methods, performance evaluation, personal finance, quality business, resources (natural, human, and capital), running a business, scarcity, soft skills and STEM careers.

    In the BizTown program adventures, students assume five different business roles from boss to financial expert to innovator to salesperson to consumer. At the end of the five adventures, each student will have a 360-degree view of how a business works and how money flows through an economy.

    The goals of JA BizTown are to:

    • Teach students to develop and follow a monthly budget
    • Help students to research and understand the actual “costs of living” for the basic necessities of life
    • Encourage students to develop and demonstrate personal responsibility for learning and self-management
    • Communicate and work with schools to promote the highest level of student achievement
    • Challenge students to think critically, creatively, analyze tasks, and solve problems

    “This is the third time we’ve hosted BizTown in our Center,” said Jennifer Baker, director of career and technical education. “I am more impressed with the students each time I witness the BizTown Experience. It truly is amazing! The students elect their own mayor who then appoints judges, police officers, etc. and all business transactions are cashless. They are done using iPads.”

    Financial literacy and sound money management skills are essential to success. BizTown provides a foundation for making intelligent, lifelong, personal financial decisions.

    “To improve the financial literacy of our future business leaders and employees, Junior Achievement has created an exciting reality-based learning environment for sixth grade students,” Mayo added. “This program is a reality-based, hands-on simulation for students that enables them to build foundations for making intelligent lifelong personal finance decisions. It also allows them to develop a realistic understanding of the economic issues they must deal with upon graduation from high school and in the development of a budget.”