Students at Webster Hill Elementary School in West Hartford received some real world lessons from volunteers from BlumShapiro and a Fox 61 news anchor during the ninth annual ‘JA in a Day’ program.
By Ronni Newton
On a recent Friday, many of the classrooms at West Hartford’s Webster Hill Elementary School had substitute teachers, but they weren’t following the teachers’ regular lesson plans.
For the ninth year in a row, on June 1 more than 200 students in 11 third through fifth grade classrooms at Webster Hill were engaged in learning some real world skills on an age-appropriate level, with lessons on work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy through Junior Achievement’s “JA in a Day” program. The lessons were taught by 20 volunteers from West Hartford-based BlumShapiro. Fox 61 has also supported the Junior Achievement program at Webster Hill, and this year morning anchor Keith McGilvery was in the classroom.
“We partner with companies such as BlumShapiro to come into schools to present fun and interactive lessons,” said Samayya Ayoub, a senior education manager with Junior Achievement of Southwest New England. Lessons are taught in innovative ways like using board games. A project for fifth-graders might focus on how to make an alarm clock better for consumers, she said.
The curriculum for third-graders is called “JA Our City,” and students learn about skills needed to work in specific industries as well as how businesses contribute to a city. They also learn about checking accounts and other financial literacy skills. While they don’t necessarily need those skills now, the hope is that exposure will build a foundation that can be used in the future, said Ayoub.
The fourth grade focus is on “JA Our Region,” and is an introduction to entrepreneurship.
Through the “JA Our Nation” curriculum, fifth-graders learn about the needs for certain skills, like STEM, that are in high demand in many industries. They also learn about “soft skills,” Ayoub said, like the importance of showing up on time, collaboration, and listening – and have fun doing it.
“We want kids to have a couple of lightbulb moments,” said Ayoub. And at the same time, the day is interesting and fun for the volunteers. “They often walk away with great stories,” she said.
Three volunteer teachers took over Deborah Stolstrom’s third grade classroom for the day. Andrew Lattimer, a tax partner at BlumShapiro was joined by his daughter, Sarah, a junior at Windsor High School, and McGilvery of Fox 61.
“It’s going great,” said Webster Hill Principal Jeff Wallowitz halfway through the school day. He said that he sees many of the same volunteers year-after-year, and appreciates the relationship with BlumShapiro.
It’s a rewarding experience for the students, said Wallowitz. “I think they get a useful lens into a potential future … it widens their perspective,” he said. A student who is good at math might realize where that can take them.
“It’s also nice to hear from someone who is actually doing the work, and sharing real life experiences,” said Wallowitz. “Any time a kid says ‘I can do that someday,’ it’s powerful.”
After passing out a worksheet, Andrew Lattimer quizzed the third-graders on making change, and on how many smaller coins add up to the value of a larger coin. There was also extra credit – where students figured out if they had enough money to purchase an item based on the coins they had.
Stolstrom said that the lessons reinforce some of the regular curriculum, like addition and subtraction skills and counting money. Multiplication skills are used to calculate the sales tax on a purchase at the zoo. “The learning takes place in a fun way, and they enjoy it so much,” she said. “It has real life application which is great.”
“I just believe in the organization so much. It creates a sense of community for our children,” said Andrew Lattimer, who has volunteered at Webster Hill in all but one of the nine years the Junior Achievement program has been held there. “It helps with life skills, and if I were not a tax partner, I would want to be a teacher,” he said.
His kids all experienced the JA in a Day program, and loved it.
Sarah Lattimer said she participated in the JA in a Day program when she was in elementary school, and was excited about joining her dad for the day as a volunteer teacher. “It’s so interesting, and I really like giving back.” She said she loves math, and while she isn’t sure what she wants to do for a career, she is considering nursing.
McGilvery said he enjoyed his first volunteer experience with Junior Achievement. “It’s a great opportunity to talk to kids about what’s going on in our community.”
“Our annual visit to Webster Hill Elementary School is a special day for us. We get to blend our work experiences with the education tools provided by Junior Achievement to open young minds to the possibilities awaiting them with their future career choices,” Michael C. Pelletier, partner and chief innovation officer of BlumShapiro Consulting, said in a news release. “To see the students engaged in the interactive activities we lead is a very rewarding experience.”
Junior Achievement runs programs at other West Hartford schools as well, Ayoub said, including the Career Walk that involves students from Conard and Hall high schools. Volunteers from FLOW (Future Leaders of West Hartford) recently spent the day at Wolcott Elementary School doing the JA in a Day program, and consulting firm Accenture assisted with the program at Sedgwick Middle School.
Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford!