JA BizTown

"My daughter had "THE BEST TIME IN MY ENTIRE LIFE!" at JA BizTown. Better than Disneyland! What a great experience to understand business and the roles people play. That's going to leave a deep impression about what is possible as she pursues her career path."
— JA BizTown parent and volunteer

Elementary school students are not old enough to drive, work or vote. But that doesn't stop them from managing businesses, operating banks, opening bank accounts and writing checks at JA BizTown!

JA BizTown blends in-class learning with a one-day economic simulation within an 8,500 square foot replica of an American city. After four weeks of curriculum and preparation in the classroom, where students learn how to be a citizen, how an economy works, how to apply for a job and run a successful business, students visit our JA BizTown facility, located in SE Portland, for a 4.5 hour “work day” experience.

Experiential Learning

Most of us learn best when we are able to experience things firsthand. JA BizTown takes reality-based learning to a new level by placing elementary school students into authentic, tangible, real-world scenarios in business management and as consumers. JA BizTown brings together teachers, community and corporate volunteers, and local businesses to prepare students for adult life.

JA BizTown includes three parts:

 Classroom lessons and activities

 Economic simulation at JA BizTown

▲ Debrief and follow-up in the classroom

What Students Learn

Our comprehensive curriculum, developed in partnership with educators, reinforces and supplements Common Core State and Federal Standards. Upper-elementary students spend 12 hours with the teacher-taught curriculum. In preparation for the JA BizTown simulation, students learning essential business concepts, including basic economics, civic responsibility, community engagement, and more, before applying for jobs and participating in mock interviews. The curriculum units are as follows:

Financial Literacy

This unit introduces students to bank services and practices that will help them be successful in JA BizTown and in life. Students begin to understand the basics of deposits, checks, and withdrawals, and they build on that knowledge to understand electronic banking and bank cards.

Community and Economy

Students are introduced to the concept of the circular flow of money and goods in an economy. They will define basic economic concepts and discuss the impact of taxes and philanthropy.

Work Readiness

In this unit, students learn how their interests and skills can lead to exciting jobs and careers. They will assess their interests and skills and have an opportunity to fill out a job application and experience the job interview process.

Business Management

This unit gives students time to work in their business teams and prepare for their JA BizTown visit. They will learn about operating a successful business, setting prices to achieve a profit, and using advertising to bring in revenue.

The Simulation and Debrief

Students visit JA BizTown with their class, then they reflect on their JA BizTown experience and further identify the relevance of classroom learning to their future plans and goals.

At JA BizTown - The Simulation:

This interactive, project-based program not only teaches students how to manage their own personal finances and the importance of becoming a successful professional within our community, but it also empowers them to take responsibility for their professional and educational futures! JA BizTown helps students envision the possibilities of what they can be by helping them see the value of staying in school. 

Each day, about 100 upper elementary school students become JA BizTown "citizens," where they work in one of 19 businesses, make personal financial decisions as well as for their business, hold business meetings, pay taxes and donate to charity.

Every JA BizTown "citizen" has a job for the day, participates in business and town meetings, gets paid twice, manages a checking account, purchases retail items to take home, gets a health check-up, and much more!

The major life lessons learned include:

  • The rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
  • The steps needed to apply for and obtain a job, and the critical-thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, and leadership skills required to succeed in that job.
  • How to write checks, use debit cards, and manage money effectively.
  • How goods, services, and resources flow in an economy.
  • How to start, finance, and manage a business that will bring jobs to a community.

Hundreds of teachers partner to bring the JA BizTown experience to their students. The program is now serving upper elementary school students from 24 districts! Space is limited.

For more information about JA BizTown, please contact Gina Huntington at ghuntington@ja-pdx.org or 971-255-4957.