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New Town America

How fifth graders are taking over

Visiting fifth graders at BizTown, a 10,000-square-foot city with its own micro-economy, learn financial skills from balancing a checkbook to working together to run a business. Tyler Liberto, left, of Severna Park Elementary School, is the mayor, while Sophie Itel, right, is a photojournalist for the newspaper. There is also a bank, café, real estate office, car dealer, insurance company, radio and TV station and more.

Fifth graders are taking over the world in 2013. They’re starting at Junior Achievement’s BizTown.
    In Central Maryland, BizTown is one of the nationwide organization’s approaches to teaching financial skills to kids of all ages.
    BizTown is a real place, a 10,000-square-foot city with its own micro-economy. The town has a mayor’s office, newspaper, Bank of America, café, real estate office, Toyota dealer, insurance company, Northrup Grumman science center and TV and radio station. Each company has a CEO, a CFO and workers who make the business run.
    At BizTown, visiting fifth graders learn skills from balancing a checkbook to working together to run a business.
    “It teaches financial basics to kids at a young age,” says Erin Bishop, a BizTown coordinator who leads daily activities. “We try to prepare them for what they will experience as an adult.”
    In the new year, 21 Anne Arundel County schools will take the bus trip to Owings Mills to run BizTown.
    Before their field trip, students interview for the jobs they want, the most popular being radio deejay. Teachers and peers do the hiring. Each fifth grade citizen gets a paycheck for working. CEOs get $9, and employees get $7 per hour, with taxes deducted.
    Daily expenses have to be figured in, too. BizTown citizens need to budget lunch money and insurance for accidents that might happen.
    Severna Park Elementary School’s Mayor Tyler Liberto likes his job. “It’s busy,” he says before returning behind his desk. It’s true: Liberto has to fill out a census sheet, hand out paychecks and address the citizens of BizTown before the end of the day.
    Toyota employee Hannah Cobbs likes BizTown “because we get to act like grown-ups,” she says.
    “In these economic times, our mission is more important than ever,” says Kim Fabian, senior vice president of Junior Achievement Central Maryland. “We teach kids the value of money and help prepare them to go into the work world with a more realistic expectation.”