Editor’s Note: This is the final installment detailing my time with the MicroSociety at Talbot Hill Elementary School.
A Chat With Students
I got a chance on my first and last day to sit down and talk with the students of Talbot Hill. They were some of the most talkative and wise elementary students I have ever had the privilege of being around.
On the first day, Sally Boni, the MicroSociety facilitator, had a good 15 to 20 students willing and excited to chat with me. They talked to me about what they do in their business or agency and they also talked with me about what the MicroSociety means to them.
And during my last day at Talbot Hill, I sat down with three young ladies who were ready to talk with me a little bit more. I spent more than an hour chatting with second grader Katelyn Taylor, fourth grader Sophea Martinez and fifth grader Divina Cortedano.
Katelyn works with her second grade class in Animal Hutt.
In Animal Hutt the students first select an animal to focus their ideas around. For the last MarketPlace, they focused on bunnies.
The students sold a number of different items including bunny headbands with ears, bunny cards, cookies, bracelets and rings.
“We also make nonfiction pieces to sell,” Katelyn said.
She is referring to a fact sheet full of information on bunnies. Katelyn and her classmates learn about bunnies and put together facts about their habitat, food they eat, their bodies, behavior and kits, which according to the fact sheet are what baby rabbits are called.
She said they learn their information from books their teacher, Ms. Hutt, reads to them. The students take notes on those many different aspects listed above and later put the information into paragraph form.
Other animals they have focused on this year have been penguins, dogs and cats, Katelyn said.
She said the class decides on what animal to focus their attention on is by voting. Katelyn said the students come up with suggestions and their teacher has the class vote to finalize the decision.
Sophea works at City Hall and in the beginning of the year, she said they help approve business licenses and plans. She also said she helps produce the products that City Hall sales at MarketPlace, including the duct tape wallets they sold on March 29.
City Hall, Sophea said, is also in charge of running drives. Currently a toiletry drive is happening and ends sometime in April. These items will be donated to the Salvation Army Food Bank.
She said this year she wanted to be part of City Hall because she likes the facilitator, Mrs. Goss, and she likes what they (City Hall) does including the drives throughout the year. And there aren’t a lot of people in City Hall, she added.
Sophea is also on the Board of Education and because she is in fourth grade, this is her first year.
She believes with the help of MicroSociety students from Talbot Hill Elementary are “at a slight advantage when they grow up,” she said.
Sophea also shared with me how important she feels the Chamber of Commerce meetings are.
When she was in kindergarten, her and another classmate of her’s brought an idea to the group that has been in place ever since.
She said they noticed there wasn’t enough time between shifts to restock and get the next round of shoppers on their way during MarketPlace.
Now each business and organization has a five minute break to get reset. Sophea said another aspect of that was not to display all your product during the first round. Items would sell out, she said. So now the students display after in the first rotation, which allows all students the opportunity to buy the items for sale.
When Divina entered her last year at Talbot Hill, she said she had a hard time deciding what business she wanted to be a part of.
She said she came across the small businesses and thought it would be cool to partner with her sister, third grader Carisma.
“I could help her, give her pointers and show her how MicroSociety works,” Divina said.
And a small business, she added, is a “great way to learn how business works in real life.”
To say Divina has had a successful experience at Talbot Hill through MicroSociety is an understatement.
When she was in second grade, she said she ran for a seat in the house. And was elected. Then the following year as a third grader, Divina said she wanted to take another step forward and ran for a senate seat, which she was elected to.
In fourth grade, she decided to run for vice president. She lost this election and was then chosen to be on the Board of Education.
She said she thought of giving up student government following her VP loss but her mom convinced her to run for president.
“I was nervous, I didn’t know if I would win or lose,” she said. But Divina was elected as president in her final year at Talbot Hill.
“I was excited to help all students, not just those in my class or grade,” she said regarding her duties as president. And so far she’s had a fun year, she added.
As president, she has many different duties including representing Talbot Hill, anytime guests come and she runs the house meetings which includes 16 representatives. She said these meetings are fun for younger students to interact with others from the school.
Aside from running her small business with her sister and being president, Divina also works with the green team and patrol as a team captain.
The green team meets every Thursday and helps the school work toward being a green school. This year’s focus is water conservation.
And as a team captain for the patrol, Divina helps kids cross the street and be safe before and after school starts.
During our talk, I asked her about what she thinks her time in middle and high school will be like.
She said she applied for three different schools: Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences, University Prep and Lakeside School.
She was accepted to both Seattle Academy and Lakeside. She will be attending Seattle Academy next year through her senior year.
“It was a big decision to pass up Lakeside,” she said. Many family friends, she said, have attended Lakeside but she felt Seattle Academy was more open and welcoming to her.
She thinks during her time at Seattle Academy it will help open her up more and allow her to see who she is and what she wants to be when she grows up.
A Parent’s Perspective
During my time working with the MicroSociety, I could see this program not only makes an impact on the students but on the parents as well.
In an email interview with Kara Roberts-McKeage, she described what this program means to not only her son, Finnegan, but to all the students at Talbot Hill.
“The great thing about the MicroSociety at Talbot Hill is that it shapes the community,” she said. “From what I’ve witnesses the kids are given a lot more responsibility and they can handle the expectations that come with it.
“They have more privileges, ways to build trust and self esteem. They are treated as people, not just students. There is a very positive feeling at Talbot Hill and the kids seem more mature.”
Finnegan has been part of the MicroSociety during his fourth and fifth grade years, he was at a different school when he was in third grade. Roberts-McKeage said while at that other school, he struggled a bit but things have changed since he joined Talbot Hill.
Now a fifth grader, Roberts-McKeage said he comes home excited to talk about his day. She added she feels this program has helped prepare Finnegan for middle school and becoming an adult.
This year, she said Finnegan is part of the small businesses with some of his friends. Roberts-McKeage herself is a small business owner and she said she was happy to see him go through the process.
“We’ve had some great conversations about being a business owner and he has shown a lot more interest in what I’m doing now that he can relate,” she said.
Roberts-McKeage added she saw a “spark” in Finnegan when he realized one day he could be his own boss.
Finnegan’s business is call Tiger Products and Services (TPS) and there are five owners who all have an equal share in the business.
TPS helps provide services to the school like helping second grade classes with computers once a week. Another service they provide is called Book Hospital where they repair books for kindergarten classes. And during a MarketPlace this year, TPS sold hot chocolate mix with candy canes.
“It is fun to learn about what the real world is like,” Finnegan said in the email. “Usually work isn’t fun but this is.”
Recent challenges that TPS went through was having better advertising in time for the next MarketPlace and coming up with ideas of products to sell, Finnegan shared.
“Many kids learn by doing, by moving and are excited when it is student led,” she said. “This is so rare in our schools. The MicroSociety is such a special treasure and I am so grateful that my son has been able to have the experience.”
Don’t miss out on seeing this program at work.
The next chance to witness the MicroSociety in action is Thursday, May 11 during the school’s evening MarketPlace.