Last week, I wrapped up my first ever JA experience, where I spent 5 sessions in January delivering the Our City program to Mrs. Dubin's 3rd graders at Green Hope Elementary School in Cary, NC. It was a BLAST!
Being that I've always had a passion for teaching and wanted to give
back to some local schools in some way, I had been interested in JA
since the intro breakfast I attended in 2011. But when I attended an
orientation session in November, and saw the quality of materials
available for the program, my motivation and excitement kicked into a
higher gear! I wanted to get started!
There is a colorful city map that is used for all of the sessions. The
map is divided into zones and we discuss why we have zones, and what
the role of a city planner is.
Students build buildings using cutouts which form 3D figures, and also
do some basic construction measurements and talk about the importance of
quality in construction.
The restaurant session was my favorite, as I got out the dry-erase
marker and conducted a pretty interactive discussion on different
aspects of being an entrepreneur and restaurant owner. The funniest
moment came when the students had to name their restaurants. One group
wanted to have an Italian style restaurant like Maggiano's which also
offered massages. The ring leader of that group proclaimed it would be
called Massagiano's!! (By the way, that particular ring leader was my son Luke). Other richly diverse
teams compromised and decided to have mixed-culture menus, such as
"Chinese-Mexican". It was enlightening to see how well they worked
together. We were all pretty hungry after this session was over!
The newspaper journalism session was fun too. Students crafted
outlines to their own made-up stories, some of which included Mrs. Dubin
opening her own restaurant, or other students becoming sports
The banking session involved the students dividing into 2 groups -
customers and workers - and demonstrating capitalism in action. You
earn money... you put it in the bank... the bank stewards your money...
you buy stuff using a variety of methods like checks and ATM cards, and
at the end of the week, you reconcile your expenses. Basic stuff, but
we can all learn a lot by twenty 3rd graders standing up, walking
around, and conducting business in a "city" called a classroom.
I prepared about 60-90 minutes for each session, and that was mainly
because each was my first one. I took notes and made highlights in the
volunteer guide, and used that more as a general outline than a script.
The kit is truly "turn-key" and ready to use out the box. Mrs. Dubin
was helpful in making connections to what they were teaching in class,
and rightfully so. The JA programs are intentionally mapped to grade
level subjects in the Department of Education's subject taxonomy. Mrs.
Dubin also helped keep the kids in order and helping with many of the
activities. She has a great class, and I will surely miss them!
It was truly a pleasure serving these kids. I knew most of the names
by the 3rd session, but the JA tent cards helped where my memory failed
me. As I got to know the students, I encouraged them more and more -
helping the shy ones get engaged, helping the outgoing ones learn about
humility, and helping everyone to act professionally, courteously, and
speak up confidently when talking. There's certainly more to this than
just learning about "our city".
Before this session was complete, I had already booked my next Our City
gig, to be done with some 5th graders later this spring. I can't
wait. I encourage anyone with a passion for service to kids and our
educational system to consider making an investment in Junior
Achievement. You'll have a blast, too!!
To volunteer for Junior Achievement, please contact your corporate volunteer coordinator, or if you are in the Triangle area, the JA of Eastern NC office.