"Participants in the 11 to 14 year old age group are trained to become peer leaders for 6 to 10 year olds" -Mary Ann Ginger
In September, 2007, with funding from an anonymous donor, Girls Inc. launched its new MicroSociety® program becoming the only Micro Afterschool™ site in Sarasota County.
The MicroSociety model uses an innovative delivery system in which students create and run a miniature society within their afterschool program. It incorporates real world experiences into basic curriculum and helps students apply what they learn in the classroom to real life.
After introducing the girls to the various businesses and agencies that would comprise our MicroSociety, girls applied for their top two choices and began gainful employment with their new venture or agency. Next, the girls registered to vote in preparation for the election of our community's officials. Over 20 girls chose to run for office, learning about campaign ethics and delivering speeches on stage while explaining why they should be elected. High voter turnout caused some log jams at the voting tables, but by the end of the day, the girls had selected their first Mayor, Vice Mayor, Treasurer, Secretary and Legislator and named their new city, “Dream Harbor”. Our MicroSociety was off and running!
Now that the agencies and ventures were staffed, our young entrepreneurs began to produce goods and services. They purchased their raw materials from the Micro Warehouse designing products they thought would appeal to girls ages 5-14. At their weekly business meetings, they decided on signage, set prices for their merchandise and selected staff to cover the sales table. The elected officials began meeting to identify important issues and held a town hall meeting to bring these issues, such as paying taxes and rent to the citizens of Dream Harbor. Fluorescent yellow vests began appearing in the hallways as the “Peacekeepers” began patrolling the halls maintaining order and issuing tickets both for good behavior and for breaking laws . Reporters began tracking down stories and taking pictures to use in their monthly newsletter. All citizens began to earn a paycheck, create products or exhibits and deposited money into their “Micro” bank accounts . Our teaching staff took on the new role of facilitator, giving up a lot of the decision-making to their newly formed leadership team enabling their students to effectively run their own businesses and government agencies.
A premise of the program is that if decision-making and authority is placed in the hands of the students, there will be greater student motivation to succeed, to learn, and a climate conducive to educational, social and emotional development will prevail. Each child has a role in running that world with student achievement as the ultimate goal. Partnerships with local businesses and agencies show the girls the connection to the real world and create meaningful learning opportunities.
Real Life Experiences Include
- Applying for jobs
- Opening bank accounts
- Receiving paychecks
- Registering to vote
- Being sworn in as citizens of Dream Harbor
- Electing officers and naming their society
- Ribbon-cutting ceremony
- Swearing in of elected officials
- Market Day - students purchase goods created in their Micro Venture
For the first year of MicroSociety, the ventures and agencies in operation are
Snack Shack Restaurant & Boldest Café
- Provides snack and other refreshments to the girls in the program while running an actual restaurant and catering service
- Designs a variety of craft projects to sell as merchandise during Market Day; tracks sales to generate a profit; can include art exhibits
Step Up! Special Events
- Coordinates decorations and special programming for community events; writes thank you cards
Science Museum of Natural Fun
- Investigates science and nature conducting experiments, creating exhibits as part of the museum and designing merchandise for sale in the gift shop
SSBG News Publishing/TV Station
- Creates print material (newspapers, magazines, books, posters, flyers) for internal communication and for other ventures and agencies. Writes scripts for reporters.
- Students write skits and plays, create dance routines, design sets and costumes and create signage to market their performances to other students
Financial & Government Center (Bank & P.O.)
- Students learn how to manage their earnings with savings/checking accounts. Functions as a bank, post office, payments made for rent, taxes, licenses
Peacekeepers - Executive & Legislative branch
- Peacekeepers are the police of MicroSociety maintaining public safety and order. The elected officials meet weekly, hold monthly town hall meetings to discuss important issues with Dream Harbor's citizens and greet important guests.
- Provides supplies for all of the ventures and agencies. Students order supplies through a requisition system and warehouse clerks fill and deliver them.
Middle School “Zone”
- Designed especially for our middle school girls. Includes photography and framing, “Clothes Closet” thrift shop, listening to music, sports, fashion design and computers.
- Program emphasizes skills for lifelong learning through the use of a standards-based, integrated curriculum which incorporates citizenship and economics at all levels.
- Every classroom is a business or agency.
- Neighborhood Peacekeepers maintain order in the hallways.
- All citizens work and earn wages called “Micro Money”, Girls Inc.‘s own internal currency.
- All citizens participate in Consumer Breaks and Market Day where merchandise is displayed for purchase, tickets are sold to performances and exhibits, and craft projects can be completed.
- At the Government Center, citizens open savings and checking accounts, take out loans to purchase supplies and cover start-up costs, apply for a business license, and drop off mail for delivery.
- Partnerships with local businesses support student ventures, teaching real world connection to their Micro Agency or Venture.
- Elected officials hold Town Hall meetings to discuss important topics with the citizens.
- Citizens register to vote for their leadership team
Special Guest Presenters Include
- Mayor Lou Ann Palmer, Vice Mayor Kelly Kirschner, Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent, Judge Debra Johnes Riva, Voter Education & Community Outreach Coordinator Barbara Bain all participated in the Dream Harbor ribbon cutting and swearing in of elected officials. These guests also assisted in educating the girls about the campaign and election process.
- Newly elected officials of Dream Harbor participated in a Sarasota City Commission meeting. A proclamation was read by Mayor Palmer declaring Dream Harbor the first incorporated MicroSociety in the City of Sarasota.