Prairie Trace students gain real-world financial experience at JA BizTown


Prairie Trace Elementary students recently got a taste of the real world at JA BizTown.

Church Church Hittle & Antrim and the Carmel Education Foundation provided the funding for the visit to Junior Achievement of Central Indiana’s JA BizTown, which allows students to experience the decisions involved in personal finance in a setting that includes stores, banks and other businesses.

Prairie Trace had 120 fifth-graders go through the simulation April 28 at the north Indianapolis site.

“I’ve been at Prairie Trace for 21 years, and we used to bring the kids here as part of our financial literacy standards,” fifth-grade teacher Sarah Awe said. “It shut down because of the Recession. We decided to bring it back. With the financial situation with COVID, we filled out a grant with CEF and they approved it for a very large portion so we could eliminate some of the cost for parents.”

Prairie Trace fifth-grade teacher Rachel Knuttel said the students prepared for the outing for about a month.

“We spent a half-hour to an hour a day going over their financial literacy lessons and getting them prepared to be leaders at BizTown,” Knuttel said.

Awe said it has helped spark conversations with students and their parents about paying bills and taxes and taking out loans.

“It’s been very eye-opening,” Awe said.

Awe said the students have been more engaged while learning the financial literacy lessons because they get to apply it.

The students elected a mayor and students served different roles in companies. The teachers were assisted by 30 parent volunteers, who had to complete training to assist.

Prairie Trace Assistant Principal Chard Reid was previously a business teacher and DECA advisor at Carmel High School.

“It’s a meaningful and authentic experience from a career perspective, but there is a personal finance element that makes it valuable for all students regardless of what their vocational path is going to be,” Reid said. “I’ve been impressed with how well the kids prepared. The kids all know exactly what they are supposed to do because they’ve been working hard with teachers to get ready for this experience. You can see the excitement on their faces as they do their jobs.”

Reid’s daughter, Karis, served as CEO of Eli Lilly and Co.

“I’ve had a lot of fun learning how to write checks and how to compromise with other people on ideas,” she said. “I endorse the check. I write the checks and write all the prices down. I help other people when they are short on staff.”