Local businesses aid in students’ community-based curriculum

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published June 9, 2014

 Rogers Elementary second-graders, from left, Ruby Young, Ella Darby, Jason Whidby and Xavier Dykes, with chaperones following close behind, head to McCourt’s Music Store June 4 during the school’s annual community walk in downtown Berkley.

Rogers Elementary second-graders, from left, Ruby Young, Ella Darby, Jason Whidby and Xavier Dykes, with chaperones following close behind, head to McCourt’s Music Store June 4 during the school’s annual community walk in downtown Berkley.

Photo by Deb Jacques

BERKLEY — Second-grade teachers at Rogers Elementary in Berkley hope that giving their students a real-life, hands-on experience to correlate with what they were taught in the classroom will leave a lasting impression.

To go along with the students’ social studies unit for the year, which focused on community, the second-grade teachers took roughly 60 students around Berkley June 4 to visit 35 businesses and learn how they contribute to the overall community.

The students visited banks, retail stores, candy shops and a barber, and they had a chance to talk to several business owners and workers.

“This is a cumulative activity for our social studies unit for the year, which was all based on community and the services the community provides, and how communities are alike and different and change over time and history,” second-grade teacher Debbie Harris said. “This kind of ties it all together, as well, as we talk about supply and demand and those kinds of things. It is all part of our social studies curriculum, and the economics, and exchanging money for goods, and making choices like that.”

When the community walk started a few years ago, only about six businesses were on the tour. This year, the walk expanded past 12 Mile Road and included Coolidge Highway as well as 11 Mile Road.

Besides seeing what a business does and how it contributes to the community, Harris said students also had the opportunity to learn more about themselves, decisions they would make, and possible career paths.

“We try to teach what community exactly is, and why people choose to live in communities, and what they offer as far as goods or services or employment,” she said. “One guy talks about being an entrepreneur, and they can see that in action and understand what it is. They also see if they only have so much money, are they going to buy the chocolate or groceries they need?

“A lot goes on in the classroom before we go out into the community, so this is exciting for the kids.”

Lisa Peasley, co-owner of Sweet Essentials, said this year was the fourth that she invited students into her candy shop. Peasley lets the students see how the chocolate is made and, of course, try the final product.

“Berkley is a growing downtown community, and retail stores are really important and vital to bringing people into the downtown, so it is fun for (the students) to see the hands-on,” she said. “They can actually see that we make the product here and that we don’t just sell it. They get to walk in through the candy kitchen and see candy be chocolate-covered and the retail part of it. It is a fun experience for them.”

The students also had a chance to see how non-retail businesses contribute to a community when they visited the Berkley Animal Clinic.

Stacy Wheatley, a veterinarian assistant at the clinic, said pets are a vital part of the community and that the clinic makes sure everyone is safe when it comes to pets.

“We are always happy to participate in anything to help Berkley, as we have been in the area for over 30-something years,” she said. “Anytime we can educate our young citizens on good pet care, that is something important. We advocate taking care of pets not only for the pet health, but the community in general, as many diseases are passed back and forth between animals and people, and it is good to make people take care of pets.”

The clinic also provided the students a chance to see how they could get into medicine and help animals when they are older, Wheatley said.

“There are a lot of fields with veterinarian medicine, with technicians, like nurses, doing the greater part of the job, and kennel help, who help take care of pets in the back,” she said. “There are lots of career paths for kids in veterinarian medicine, and if this is something they are interested in, they can start volunteering at local shelters and get experience and learn what it takes to go to school.”

When it comes to helping students carry what they learn through the rest of their lives, Harris said giving them a physical example, especially at a young age, is what helps the most.

“Young kids at this age learn what they know, what they see and what they can touch,” she said. “You can talk about it, but until they actually get out there and see it, like the Grand Canyon, they won’t understand how vast it is until they see it. They need to see these businesses and how they have changed over time or added on, and once they see that, they have a better, deeper understanding of what a community offers and how to start something.”