It was a rainy and dreary December day outside, but inside the 3rd grade classrooms at Humann Elementary school the students were ready and eager. They were on their best “we have guests” behavior, and many even dressed up for the occasion. It was obviously an important day for them.
The classrooms were each on day 3 of the JA 3rd grade curriculum– “Our City”. Their volunteers had already discussed zoning with them (“How would you decide where the houses should go? What about a school? Post office? Flower shop?”), and guided them through questions they would need to consider when deciding to open a business (“If it’s a restaurant, where would you want to build it? How much money would you need to make to cover all your costs? How much would you need to charge in order to make that much money?”). Today, they were going to start putting it all into action, physically constructing little cardboard buildings and putting them into their proper zones in order to construct a city. And they had special guests to help them do it.
As part of a new series of “Back to School” events, members of the JA of Lincoln Board of Directors and Trustees had been invited to watch the curriculum in action. It was a unique opportunity for all involved. As students colored their little schools, hospitals, farms, and movie theaters, they casually asked the President of the Chamber of Commerce where she’d put that business, heard from an Associate Superintendent of LPS how building a school can drive the construction of new homes, let the President & CEO of Bryan LGH help them design their hospital. The board, in turn, got to see first hand just how engaged the students really were in the curriculum. They debated which business should be next to another, who got to put theirs closest to the road, what they could do about the empty areas on the outskirts of their town. In under an hour, they had become miniature city planners.
Most of all, it was a great reminder of just how vital the JA mission is to our students. They truly do want to learn what we have to teach. They respond to the fact that adults from the community care enough to come share with them. They want to listen, and they want to be heard. They’re just bursting with ideas and creativity, and– given the proper outlet– they’ll undoubtedly change the world. It’s our responsibility to make sure they have the resources and opportunities to do it.
If you haven’t been in a JA classroom recently, there’s no time like the present. For more information on volunteering, contact Kelly Pargett at firstname.lastname@example.org or (402) 467-1741. It’s a decision you won’t regret.