Aspen Heights Elementary School’s MicroSociety may be replicated across Alberta.
Funded by community partners, the MicroSociety program has run for 10 years and allows kindergarten to Grade 5 students to experience the real world of jobs, paying taxes, running businesses and holding elections.
On Wednesday, Education Minister David Eggen — the first education minister to visit the MicroSociety — toured the school on market day to see students providing services and selling products.
“I’ve been looking forward to visiting Aspen Heights for a long time. The reputation has spread across the province, quite frankly, for this innovative program. You can see how engaged the kids are with their businesses, with their government,” Eggen said.
He said Alberta Education is in the process of building new curriculum for Grades 5 to 9, and prototype field testing is underway this year for kindergarten to Grade 4.
“This is a lovely application for what we’re hoping to achieve in the new curriculum, where you see entrepreneurship being taught, you see financial literacy being taught, you see critical thinking skills being used, more focus on mathematics and language.
“We will make a point of studying this to perhaps see some version in other schools across Alberta,” Eggen said.
MicroSociety co-ordinator Allan Baile said to expand the program to other schools, a combination of community partnerships and funding from Alberta Education is needed.
For a long time, Aspen Heights was the only MicroSociety school in Alberta. A school outside Spruce Grove has joined the program, and a school in Spirit River is being trained.
“We were the lonely island sitting in the middle with nobody else. Now these other two schools have come on. We’re trying to make connections with them. They’re learning from us and we’re learning from them and that’s great,” Baile said.
He said funding from Alberta Education would give the program long-term sustainability to enhance training in other school jurisdictions.
Eggen said funding choices are made by school boards, and he was glad Red Deer Public Schools decided to offer the innovative program at Aspen Heights.
Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce and the Alberta chamber network are recommending the province support implementation of at least one MicroSociety in each school district in the province by 2025.
Red Deer chamber CEO Rick More said Aspen Height’s MicroSociety has been one of the best kept secrets. He wants the program to spread and more businesses in Red Deer get involved.
“I think that would be a good merge for our businesses to align with the kids here,” More said.
“Every time I come here, I can’t get the smile off my face. I just think it’s brilliant.”