MicroSociety improves goal setting and academic performance
Burst for Prosperity Stories - Meg Pitman
Meg Pitman is executive director of the Renton/Skyway Boys and Girls Club, home of Burst for Prosperity’s MicroSociety afterschool model project. The Club has been operating MicroSociety since November of 2008. Meg takes pride in the way the MicroSociety program has increased students' self-confidence and improved their goal-setting, leadership, and academic skills. Here’s what Meg has to say about MicroSociety:
"We’re seeing first the ability to set a goal and then the ability to break it down and make it happen."
A lot of the kids in our community are from single-parent, often low-income families that just don’t have a lot of resources. We needed to arm these kids to level the playing field for them when they got older. We conceptualized MicroSociety as an entrepreneurial playground in which kids create their own businesses and government structure.
They just created a court and ticketed one of my board members for running in the club, so then she brought in a “lawyer.” They’re playing out a lot of things in the real world, only in a safe setting. They’re realizing, “If I get a ticket, I can fight it in court. If I want to be a prosecutor, I can.” Their math skills are going up, their reading skills are going up, and they’re actually using what they learn in school. They’re making that connection themselves.
We have 230 club members but the average daily attendance is 55. One hundred percent of our kids are employed in MicroSociety. The core components that you have to have to make it work are a bank, a government – they’ve gone with a democracy – a restaurant, and peacekeepers who are like our law enforcement. We now have a court system so we have employers, and we have various arts and crafts ventures, and even a “design your own cookie” venture. We also have Renway Helping Hand – the kids started their own in-house Red Cross raising money for Haiti. We have Wii Fitness and a newspaper, the Renway Spectacle.
We’re all MicroSociety, all of the time, except for half an hour to an hour at the end of the day when we do homework. Another important program component is Renway University. Every Tuesday and Thursday we bring in community partners to teach lessons to the kids. It’s a way to get businesses interacting with kids. We’ve had Boeing, Microsoft, a local US Bank branch, a musician who talked about what it’s like to have a career in music, Target, and also local community organizations. Sometimes the program takes form of a field trip; for example, our elementary kids recently visited a bakery.
We’re seeing first the ability to set a goal and then the ability to break it down and make it happen. They’re learning, “Okay, I have an idea and that has value, and then what’s the next step? How do I break it down and get to that goal?” These goals take all sorts of forms. Sometimes it’s a business idea: “In a perfect world I’d create this.” Now the club is the environment where we say, “Well, you can.” We’re starting to see that translate to bigger goals like high school graduation and going to college. Kids are figuring out how to break down those goals, for example, the grades from this quarter are going to matter if you want to go to college
Our current MicroSociety President is Hunter Eider, whose personal motto for 2010 is: “Today the city, tomorrow the world.” When I asked him what that meant, he said, “Today I’m going to change Renway; tomorrow I’m going to change the world. I think I’ll start by sorting out that little problem in the Middle East.”