Last Thursday was tax day, much to the dismay of Windsor Elementary fourth- and fifth-graders.
They greeted the gentle reminder to pay up by 2:30 p.m. with gasps and a quick rifling through their checkbooks.
But coughing up the dough was not much of a problem for these students. Many have hundreds stashed away in their bank accounts. Or in their desks.
The monthly tax collection is part of an ongoing project in Mary Lee Higel’s fourth and fifth-grade combination class. Students have set up a mock community, complete with a mayor, private businesses and a bank - the “Cashola Credit Union.” Mayor Stacia Town, a fourth-grader, presides over twice-weekly community meetings to vote on important issues, to hear new business and to make announcements.
Announcements like taxes are due in approximately one hour.
Fourth-grader Susan Brandvold is the appointed collector. She moves from desk to desk, palm outstretched. No one ever gives her any guff, she says.
Each student is given a job and, in turn receive a paycheck courtesy of payroll manager Ashley Croy. The mayor rakes in $5 a day. Members of the Sunshine Crew pick up $4 for their serious work of making community members feel good about themselves.
And, true to life, the working class heroes who clean the blackboard and tidy the room get $1 a day.
When paychecks are cashed, students receive “moola,” paper money featuring a tail-wagging cow and the phrase “In our community we trust.”
Trust is just one of the outcomes of the project, says Brandi Anderson, the student teacher who brought the idea to Higel’s class in September.
“The kids are getting so much self-esteem and they’re learning respect and cooperation,” she said.
An Eastern Washington University student who is herself involved in campus politics, Anderson said she wanted to teach the kids about the real world. She learned about the project from former Reid Elementary teacher Gerol Olson.
“I’m interested in government and interested in teaching the kids to be good citizens,” she said. “It’s letting them take ownership for their own curriculum. They’re learning that some things in life aren’t free.”
“I’m learning how to manage money better,” said fifth-grader and bank president Jenna Johnson.
The kids are getting much more from this than moola, said Windsor principal Kaye Aucutt.
Kids learn about government procedure from their community meetings. They learn about math by keeping their personal ledgers of debits and credits.
“There’s so much for kids to learn these days,” she said. “That’s the only way to do it anymore is to integrate subjects.”
These are some budding business leaders of America. One enterprising student made a business of selling IOUs to his more financially challenged classmates. Another worked the room, sliding her business card into available pockets.
“Higel’s Homeroom Hardware,” it read. “I sell beads, rings, skull pens and smashed pennies.”
The pennies went for $8. Rings were a bargain-basement-priced $1.
Aside from private ventures and paychecks, students earn money by holding a weekly auction of possessions brought from home. Students can get as much as $100 in moola for a key chain or a miniature Dodge Viper.
Fourth-grader Mike Canoy spent his nest egg in a bidding flurry Thursday, coming away with two new books, an assortment of pencils and a fully depleted budget. He said he’d definitely picked up an important cash management tip that day.
“I learned not to spend money unwisely,” he said.
Community calendar taking names
For those who want to triple their birthday-present intake, the Liberty School District is now accepting names for its community calendar, which lists birthdays and anniversaries of local residents.
Funds from calendar sales go toward the district’s Renaissance program, which promotes academic excellence through recognition and rewards.
Calendars are $5 each. For information call Renaissance coordinator Marie Tellessen at 245-3149.
The Lewis and Clark High School Instrumental Music Program will show how the West was won in a concert and re-enactments of Red Cloud’s War, Sitting Bull’s War and the 1908 dedication of the Fetterman Memorial. The Inland Empire Cowboy Brass Band, 22 LC students who comprise what is believed to be the country’s only high school cowboy brass band, will take part in the concert. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. at the LC Auditorium. Cost is $2. For more information, call 353-5202.
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