MSK kids take on Exchange City

By Laura Dolce
April 17, 2008
York County Coast Star

Look around and you’ll see an ideal town.

The judge is working away in City Hall, while the mayor discusses law enforcement with the DA and police department. The radio station is giving shout outs to folks up and down Main Street, and the bank is bustling with people waiting to cash their checks.

The fast food joint is hopping with lunchtime customers, and over at the newspaper, the editor sends a reporter out to get the scoop on a big arrest that just went down.

All around the town square, money is changing hands as businesses grow and prosper.

If it sounds like a blueprint for saving the U.S. economy, you might just be right. The only problem is the American public may have to wait a few years for these business geniuses to make their mark. That’s because all of the movers and shakers in this town – from Judge Meg Cadigan to assigning editor Sarah O’Connell to food worker bryce Fraser – are sixth graders at the Middle School of the Kennebunks, and the “town” they spent the day running was really Exchange City, an innovative educational program that teaches kids some valuable economics and civics lessons.

A national program with 14 locations, the Exchange City the MSK kids visited last week is in Portsmouth, N.H., in an old school building. Inside the school’s gym, an elaborate city, complete with a Post Office, power supply company and various stores and businesses was created so that students can experience what it’s like to work in the adult world.

“The students had to pick jobs and then interview for them,” said Social Studies teacher Tom Taylor, who spearheaded the project for the sixth grade bridge Team. “They had to write a resume, they had to fill out applications.”
Taylor said the MSK trip was made possible by funding from the Education Foundation of the Kennebunks and took six weeks to prepare for. This was the first time MSK students visited Exchange City, but Taylor’s hoping it won’t be the last.

“It’s a good idea, not just to see how business works, but to see the interconnectivity of a community,” he said. “They’ve really been exposed to a lot.”
For example, the students had to prepare for their jobs weeks in advance, and then learn how to deposit their paychecks, balance their checkbooks and monitor their own spending.

“I’m really impressed with the way the kids have taken ownership,” said language arts teacher Laurie Jacques. “They all have roles and they know what they’re doing.”

And their jobs weren’t easy ones, either. On the village green, broadcast journalists Hannah brimigion, Hayley Richardson and Crystie Sandmire maneuvered their video camera in place and began interviewing a police officer for a broadcast. In the bank, tellers Tessa Johnson, Gabby Coyne and brooke Adams struggled to keep up with a steady flow of cialis super active plus reviews customers looking to cash their checks.

Paper money in hand, citizens went from store to store to browse and to buy.

But a lot of bill-paying went on, too.

Each business, in fact, had an accountant who was responsible for payroll, bills, a bank loan and taking in money for various services, from newspaper ads to electric bills.

“They’re learning computers, economics, physics,” said Ted Damon, Education Foundation of the Kennebunks director, who also credited Kennebunk Savings Bank for helping to fund the trip.

From creating the laws to helping to keep them (or not), the students had a say in everything that happened in Exchange City for the day. And while at the end of the day more than half the businesses had paid off their loans and succeeded, that wasn’t the only benefit to be found. Some had proven to themselves – and others – that they had the skills needed to succeed.

“Some of these kids amaze me,” said Sandy Noble, mother of Mayor Ellen Noble and a parent volunteer. “I would hire some of them tomorrow. You can see already that they’re ready to take this on.”