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One of the goals of a 21st-century education is to prepare students for living and thriving in a democratic society. This means not only knowing and understanding the basic tenets of civics—three branches of government, rights and responsibilities of being a citizen, and what is meant by the public agenda—but it also providing students with active learning experiences to participate in the political process. Last month, we reviewed The Presidential Election Process, which gave students the opportunity to operate their own election campaign.

 This month, we look at Classroom City, an INTERACT unit that simulates real-life situations involved in living in an urban environment. Classroom City is an immersion into the real world of the day-to-day economy of a small city. Students design, run, and sustain a classroom mini-city, experiencing the success and heartache of decisions they make during the course of the simulation.

 Classroom City is divided into three separate phases: planning the city, operating government and businesses, and assessing successes and failures to determine lessons learned. Activities in the planning process involve several instances of democracy in action as students participate in decision-making at many different levels: determining the nature of the city’s construction and layout, designing a city emblem, electing city officials, and conducting city council meetings.

 While engaged in Classroom City, students also participate in the free market by starting and operating their own business to achieve “the American Dream.”  They apply for business licenses, pay taxes, monitor and adjust to actions by the city government, and buy and sell goods and services on a daily basis. “Fate Cards” present unexpected, yet commonplace expenditures and incomes—purchasing items, paying bills, winning prize money—that affect the city’s citizens’ monetary funds. The simulation also has an optional computer program that electronically tracks their cash, check, and credit transactions and helps manage their business operations.

 Classroom City covers economics standards as established by the Council for Economics Education in an active learning environment. Activities highlight economic systems and incentives, understanding interest rates, the exchange of public goods and services, the role of government in a free market system, and personal finance skills. By participating in Classroom City, students will gain an appreciation for the free market system, the role of government in that system, and skills in managing finances and navigating the day-to-day operations of owning and operating a business and living in an urban environment.

  To order Classroom City, please visit TeachInteract.com.


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