A Lesson in School Of Economics History

Where We Are Now…

As my 10th anniversary of leading the School Of Economics approaches next month, I think about how much the program has evolved since 1994. What started as an extension of classroom learning for Blue Springs elementary schools, has expanded to 47 additional school districts and 50 private or charter schools. Capacity doubled with the opening of a second facility in 2019 and SOE can now serve 20,000 students every school year.

Flexibility to meet different needs

The program’s evolution includes offering summer programs for groups including Girl Scouts, Junior Achievement, a math club, and the Down Syndrome Guild. Using SOE materials, finance became the theme for several districts’ summer school programs, and students took a field trip to SOE at the end of the unit. What a fun way to be rewarded for hard work!

Our teaching staff adapts curriculum to meet various needs. They launched two-day camps for children who are homeschooled and created a concession stand simulation for the Lee’s Summit School District. One of my favorite things is when SOE pairs smaller schools together to fill an economic simulation with many different jobs and businesses. One school might run the bank while another operates City Hall. Every November, seven faith-based schools attend together for a day of fun, finance and new friends. SOE is a local, homegrown organization which allows us to get to know our customers well and to meet their unique needs.

Qualified staff and engaged volunteers 

Programs are led by certified teachers who meet students on their level with age-appropriate expectations and are prepared to handle any situation that may arise. Volunteers feel confident, supported and prepared for a fulfilling experience because at least three staff members are hands-on at all times. SOE is a wonderful place to volunteer because you get to have a direct impact on and play a critical role in delivering SOE’s promise of finance made fun

Real-world learning

We renovated our Blue Springs facility to achieve food handling certification in 2015 and have commercial kitchen equipment at both locations. My goal is to provide the best, most realistic work environment so children can get a glimpse into a variety of future career opportunities. It’s important that every station be equipped with tools of the trade so “producers in an economy” feel professional and proud of their contributions. From bankers, to store managers, food and craft preparers to elected officials, students take on roles that tap into their individual skills, talents and interests. We help teachers assign each student to a job in which they will be successful, and our marketplace activities emphasize social skills like communication, cooperation, leadership, conflict resolution, respect, and good customer service.

Positioned for what’s next

The future for SOE looks strong despite the challenges of 2020 — our nonprofit organization is financially solid and sustainable through crisis. Although our facilities are closed to the public through the end of 2020, the need for financial education will be more pronounced than ever as families deal with lost income due to Covid-19 and changes in our whole economy. The role for School Of Economics has been, and will continue to be, to introduce younger students to economic and workplace concepts, and to provide a fun place for them to practice money management as a foundation of lifelong financial literacy. 

Thank you for reading,

Sue-Ann Johnson

Executive Director