Marketplace of Ideas

May 17, 1989 1 min read

Some 3rd-grade students in the Washington suburb of McLean, Va., are discovering that a “mall” can be more than just another glittering palace of up-scale consumerism.

Creators of the “Magic Mall” at Kent Gardens Elementary School hope that the miniature shopping center will give students first-hand experience of the challenges involved in operating a successful business.

The $20,000 mall, which opened in a new wing of the school last month, was financed by contributions from parents and the community.

The 11 varied ventures housed in the mall include a restaurant, bank, newspaper, stock exchange, woodworking shop, and advertising agency.

Assigned to work in one of the businesses, children quickly learn the realities of payrolls, inventories, investments, profits, and losses, according to Roger Socci, the 3rd-grade teacher who developed the concept.

The students create products to “sell” to their peers. The ad agency, for example, uses its video camera to produce commercials for other ventures in the mall, while the wood shop manufactures toolboxes and magazine racks for sale to other 3rd graders at the school.

Students use play money to purchase the products, which are made from materials supplied by the school.

Each enterprise begins with an imaginary $20,000 in capital, which is increased or diminished according to students’ skills in selling goods to their classmates and managing their enterprises efficiently.

“What we’re trying to do,” Mr. Socci explained, “is create a situation where children are using their reading, writing, math, and creative-thinking skills in the process of creating a product.” The mall, he added, is “a vehicle to bring about the integration of all subjects.”

The project seeks “to bring the real world to the students,” said Mr. Socci, who hopes eventually to expand it into a full-day activity. “If something looks really real, the kids will see a relevancy to what they are doing and perform accordingly."--jw

A version of this article appeared in the May 17, 1989 edition of Education Week as Marketplace of Ideas