A small elementary school in Red Deer has earned international attention for connecting its students to the real world.
Aspen Heights Elementary School received a four-star status, the highest level of achievement for MicroSociety schools which allow students to set up their own tiny society.
In July at the MicroSociety’s 22nd annual conference in Arizona, the kindergarten to Grade 5 school received four-star status, the highest level of achievement for MicroSociety schools.
“We were one of only four schools that achieved this level, and there’s 251 schools in total, so we were very proud,” said Allan Baile, MicroSociety co-ordinator at Aspen Heights, on Wednesday.
Located mostly in the United States, the schools follow the MicroSociety program that connects students to the real world by allowing them to create their own government, economy and enterprises at school, much like a miniature community.
Aspen Heights is the only MicroSociety school in Canada. Administration and teachers adopted the program in 2009.
The school also received the 2014 Award for Outstanding International MicroSociety School, the 2014 George Award for Outstanding Student Agency in recognition of students environmental initiatives, and student Dylann Jurak, who has graduated to Grade 6, won the 2014 George Award for Student Leadership.
The 2014-15 MicroSociety year recently kicked off at the Red Deer Public school with elections.
“We have a new prime minister and deputy prime minister and members of parliament. The prime minister then appointed her senators,” Baile said.
On Thursday, students will all be sworn in as citizens of Aspen Heights MicroSociety by provincial court Judge Jim Mitchell.
In addition to regular classes, students will work on developing business ventures. They will prepare resumés to work at the student businesses, bank, a non-profit organization, police and postal service.
They earn wages in the school’s currency. They make bank deposits, pay taxes, and spend their currency shopping at the student-run businesses.
“They have to follow the rules and regulations of MicroSociety, which are enforced by our police, the Royal Aspen Micro Police, and the government that is making the laws.
“An adult might think of it as play, but they don’t think of it as play at all,” Baile said.
The aim of MicroSociety is to produce citizens who will have a positive affect on the greater community and understand how the world functions.
Baile said it encourages leadership among the school’s 215 students and motivates them.
“Almost of all of the schools that do MicroSociety, their test scores go way up. It’s that real-life connection.”
At the end of the school year, awards are given out to MicroSociety citizen of the year, bookkeeper of the year, manager of the year and employee of the year.
“We treat it like the Academy Awards. We do a red-carpet thing. We take photographs. Kids are pumped. They get dolled up.”