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J.A. in a Day brings lots of learning fun

May 16, 2013
By J.T. Whitehouse , Town Crier

Junior Achievement took over Poland Union on Thursday (May 9) and presented a program called "J.A. in a Day." The program brings the entire J.A. program to elementary schools students who learn through a hands-on approach.

"This introduces business and entrepreneurial concepts at an age-appropriate level," said J.A. program manager Nicole Widomski. "The students receive all the lessons of Junior Achievement in one day."

To start the program required some help. Widomski said 11 parent volunteers signed up and assisted with more than 230 students in kindergarten through fourth grades at Union. Each grade had a lesson plan designed for that age group. In the kindergarten level, the program was called "Ourselves." It was designed to develop personal economic concepts through storybook characters.

Article Photos

Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Fourth-graders Sam James, Vinnie Cercel and Jalin Kaden play a fun game with the goal of running a successful hot dog stand. The game was part of “J.A. in a Day” at Poland Union. The students are from Marilyn Johnstone’s class.

"The kindergarteners learned things like trading, saving money, and helping others," Widomski said.

The first-graders took part in the "Our Family" program. This one taught the difference between wants and needs and about working and getting paid.

In second grade, the program was called "Our Community." This one taught about the community the students live in from the people to the businesses. It also covered taxes, the government and voting.

In the third-grade classes, the program was "Our City" and it included some fun exercises that students learned through a hands-on approach. One of the lessons involved building a city. Students were given cardboard models of various buildings one would find in a city. Using a cardboard map, the students place the 3-D structures in the properly zoned areas and the city comes together.

The students then learn the importance of local newspapers and actually put together a class newspaper. They hold staff meetings and discuss what they want in a newspaper. Early on, the sports pages were the fastest growing.

The third-graders wrap up with a lesson on financial institutions and what role they play in a community. They got a chance during this lesson to complete a bank transaction and balance a checkbook.

The final program called "Our Region" was presented to the Union fourth-graders. This program introduced students to entrepreneurship and how entrepreneurs produce goods and services in and for a community. They got to play a game designed around operating a hot dog stand. It demonstrated how businesses bring in money and pay it out.

Widomski said the elementary school program brings a lot of Junior Achievement's ideals to the kids at an early age. It gets them thinking about how their own community functions and the roles of businesses, government, and the people within the community.

"Today, Junior Achievement is for K through 12," Widomski said. "Years ago it was only a high school program, but today we have spread out to reach all grade levels."

She said the high school "company" programs are still in existence. In Mahoning County, Austintown Fitch, Canfield and Poland high schools have the program. The company program has students start a business and learn how to make it profitable.

The recent J.A. in a Day program is in its second year at Poland Union. Through business and community donations, it is presented at no cost to the school itself.

"We are very thankful to have the opportunity to have a whole-school J.A. program again this year," said Union Principal Mike Masucci.

"Junior Achievement programs are one of the best ways to reach not only young people, but their families as well," said Melissa D'Apolito, J.A. special events and marketing director. "We know that the students go home and share what they have learned in class."



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