FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — Reading, writing and arithmetic will be joined by budgeting and finances for middle school students in three metro school systems that will learn the skills of financial literacy through hands-on experiences.
Groundbreaking for Junior Achievement’s Chick-fil-A Foundation Discovery Center was held last week at the World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta, introducing key political and business leaders to the concepts of Biz Town and Finance Park.
When completed, the two areas will take over the entire third floor of Building C, providing an interactive venue for more than 30,000 middle school students each year from Fulton County, DeKalb County and City of Atlanta school systems.
“The goal is to provide a dynamic learning experience for every child, no matter their background, [and] the opportunity to develop skills to become financially independent and responsible,” explained Jack Harris, president of Junior Achievement in Georgia (JA).
Currently, JA BizTown/JA Finance Park facilities exist in 20 cities across the United States, and started 10 years ago in Tampa, Fla. Harris said it is the goal of JA to build the facilities in every state.
The program will begin in sixth grade with four weeks of curriculum that introduces and establishes the goals of financial literacy, then culminates with a full day at either JA BizTown (sixth grade only) or JA Finance Park (seventh and eighth grades). Both simulations will be housed inside of the Discovery Center, with actual Atlanta-based businesses and personnel participating in the program.
Harris said the curriculum for Discovery Center was designed to align with the Common Core/Georgia Performance Standards, and has been reviewed and approved by all three school systems.
Fulton Superintendent Robert Avossa was a speaker at the groundbreaking ceremonies on Jan. 9, and noted the introduction of financial literacy concepts is vital in the middle school years.
“Research has shown that young people determine their attitude about handling money by the time they finish the fifth grade,” said Avossa. “[And] with the challenges in our economy, it’s critically important that today’s students have financial literacy skills so they can become career-ready [and have] a strong understanding of how our marketplace works.”
He added that young people today have more temptations when it comes to spending money, and they need to have an understanding of the consequences of their financial decisions.
In JA BizTown, students will interact within a simulated macro-economy, and take on the role of employee, taxpayer and consumer. Students receive unique job assignments and work in teams at their assigned business. By the end of the simulation, each student completes a day’s work, develops a personal budget, deposits a paycheck at the bank and makes purchasing decisions.
Within JA Finance Park, students receive a “life situation” with job, income, education and family scenarios. Based on this, students visit businesses in the simulation to gather information to make financial decisions, such as managing a household budget, using banking services and making purchasing and investment decisions.
“Through their experiences in JA BizTown and Finance Park, students will have the opportunity to experience their personal financial futures firsthand,” said Harris.
Funding for the Discovery Center will be provided by contributions from local corporations, foundations and individuals. In Georgia, the Chick-fil-A Foundation is a major partner, providing $5 million in seed money for the initial investment.
“This initial funding supports the pre-planning and lease expense of the Discovery Center, allowing us to create a facility that contains cutting-edge interactive technology and realistic simulation stations,” said Harris of the Chick-fil-A support.
The center is on schedule to open in August 2013, with the first group of students expected in September.