Monday, February 6, 2012

My First Junior Achievement Program Completed... It was a BLAST!

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!

The Our City program helps teach elementary school kids about how a city is created and operates.  Students learn basics about zones, construction concepts, opening a restaurant, publishing a newspaper, and how a bank operates.  The materials are all packaged in a "briefcase" and professionally designed and organized with a volunteer guide that tells exactly what to do in each session.  There are plenty of hands-on activities and the guide gives some latitude for the volunteer to bring his or her own experiences into the discussion.  The importance of education, study, and hard work are reinforced throughout the delivery of the program.

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 champions!

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.

1 comment:

Dad said...

Great presentation Blain. Makes me proud you are my son.

Love, Dad