Welcome to Enterprise Village This Town Is Run by Fifth-Graders

The village hummed with activity. Business owners sold apparel, office supplies, sports equipment and more. The local TV station aired interviews with villagers and guests. The medical clinic made sure all residents were in tip-top health, while utility services maintained steady services to all their clients and the bank handled financial transactions.

This is Enterprise Village. The residents are fifth- and sixth-graders.

Enterprise Village, coordinated by the national nonprofit organization Junior Achievement, is a hands-on learning village with 20 public and private businesses designed to teach fifth- and sixth-graders about basic economic principles. Actual companies and businesses sponsor the learning space (founded in Auburn, Wash., in 2004) and provide the marketplace learning tools. A separate learning area for seventh- and eighth-graders teaches financial planning concepts.

More than 100 students from Buena Vista Adventist School, Olympia Christian School, Lewis County Christian School, Nelson Crane Christian School, and several homeschoolers spent six weeks preparing for their day in Enterprise Village.

“This is experiential learning,” said Harold Richards, fifth-grade teacher at Buena Vista, who coordinated the learning opportunity. “The classroom isn’t the only place to learn.”

With this program, students learn critical thinking, problem solving, planning, goal setting, teamwork, responsibility, budgeting, decision making and analysis.

During a town hall meeting, Enterprise Village Mayor Alexis Carnduff, a fifth-grader at Buena Vista, presented the official city key to Pete Lewis, the actual mayor of Auburn, before he spoke to the students.

“[Enterprise Village] is a great working tool for our young people to learn about business and enterprise,” Lewis said.

The Seattle chapter Web site for Junior Achievement (http://seattle.ja.org) sums up the learning experience this way: “Junior Achievement broadens students’ horizons, shows them possibilities, encourages them to dream big about their futures and helps each student understand the world of ‘work.’”

June 01, 2006 / Washington Conference