MicroSociety shapes students into responsible citizens (Part 1)

Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two part series on my time with the MicroSociety at Talbot Hill Elementary School. Part two will run in next week’s issue of The Reporter and will feature interviews with three students and a parent’s perspective.

Want to see the behind the scenes operations of a small town?

Look no further than Talbot Hill Elementary School.

The MicroSociety Program is helping shape the students into caring and responsible citizens.

I spent three days at Talbot Hill and it left a profound impact on me.

Not only did I meet with Sally Boni, the MicroSociety facilitator, I also got to the opportunity to talk and spend time with students from kindergarten through fifth grade.

Since she stopped teaching in 2006, Boni has been working full time as the facilitator for the MicroSociety.

What Is MicroSociety?

During my time at Talbot Hill, I learned this program not only helps prepare the students for real-world, real-life situations but it also helps give them a voice. It also helps the students make choices, become leaders and solve problems.

Every student at Talbot Hill is actively engaged in the MicroSociety whether they serve in a student government position, run a small business, work at City Hall or manage the bank.

According to the MircoSociety’s description, these students gain an understanding of how the real world operates while incorporating the core academic subjects they are learning in the classroom.

Talbot Hill is the only school in Washington state that has a MicroSociety, Boni said.

“It is so important and valuable to our students,” she said.

How It Works

There are two phases throughout the year.

Phase 1 is where the students learn different concepts from government to economics.

During the beginning months of school, elections are held for the positions of president, vice president, house representatives and members of the senate.

This year, Boni said 212 students ran for office while only 28 were elected.

When told ahead of time that 184 students would not be elected, Boni said the students understood. And once they were elected, they understood the responsibility that comes along with being an elected official, she added.

To vote in the school’s elections, students must register. Boni said this year 96 percent of the student population, 425 out of 443, registered.

Government isn’t always perfect, fourth grader Sophea Martinez said. “You don’t always win,” she said.

Second grader Katelyn Taylor added, “It’s OK (when you don’t win), there’s always next year.”

Student Run Boards

Also among the students, there is a Board of Education, an elections committee and a Chamber of Commerce.

The Board of Education is made up of fourth and fifth grade students who were not elected to a government position. During the end of the year, these board members will interview all employees and discuss standards, lessons and how they applied them to their business and product.

The elections committee is available to help students register, run the meeting introducing candidates to their peers and they count the ballots on election day. These students volunteer their time and cannot be on the committee if they are running for office.

The chamber meets the week following the MarketPlace sale, which happens monthly in Phase 2. A member from each business or organization meets to discuss what went well, what improvements they could make and other things along those lines.

Applying For Jobs

During phase 1, there are manager workshops offered to fifth grade students who may want to apply to be a manager. These workshops help give the fifth graders leadership skills, resume writing skills and tips to help with interviews.

Following the workshops, fifth grade students apply to be managers and once they are hired, a job fair is available for third through fifth grade students to attend.

Students must apply to any of the non profits, agencies or businesses they are interested in.

Boni said the students list three they are interested in. She added this year, every student was placed in one of their three they applied to.

Students in kindergarten through second grade work within their class rather than applying to different jobs and organizations throughout the school.

Phase 2

After the students have been elected to government positions and hired, phase 2 begins.

In this final phase and second half of the year, the students develop their business plans and learn specific skills affiliated to their jobs.

MicroSociety meets four days a week for the last 45 minutes of the day. This is where the students prepare their products and services for the monthly MarketPlace.

The MarketPlace is 30 minutes where the students sell and buy items they have created.

The third MarketPlace this school year was March 29.

Two more sales remaining — the evening MarketPlace and open house that is open to parents is 6 p.m. Thursday, May 11 and the sidewalk sale is the following week on Wednesday, May 17.

“Families are amazed by what they see,” Boni said when referring to the open house MarketPlace.

With a month in between MarketPlaces Boni said there is no time waste.

Sophea said it helps everyone learn time management.

I had the opportunity to shop the March 29 MarketPlace. I was given Cool Cash so I could purchase items from the student businesses.

Some of the items I purchased were:

• A magnet with a sunflower on it by a small business made up of President Divina Cortedano, fifth grader, and her sister Carisma, third grader;

• A “Best Friend” packet including a blank card, friendship bracelet and a lollipop from iCOLOR, iCREATE!;

• A ring in the shape of a mouse purchased from Animal Hutt;

• A wallet made out of duct tape produced by the students at City Hall.

Field Trips

Another way MicroSociety helps the students learn about the real-world is through field trips.

Each business, non-profit and government agency takes a trip to an organization that is connected to theirs to see first hand how they operate.

Some trips planned this season is for Animal Hutt to visit Woodland Park Zoo, iCOLOR, iCREATE! will visit the Bellevue Arts Museum, TH Fitness will visit Baden Sports, Inc. in Renton, the bank will take a trip to First Financial NW Bank among many other field trips planned from now until the end of the school year.