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City Program Teaches Sixth-Graders in Finland Real-Life Skills

It’s 9:45 a.m., and the “game” officially begins in one hour. Dozens of Finnish sixth-graders are standing nervously in cubicles in a 6,000 square-foot space resembling a miniature city, equipped with its own city hall, grocery store, and bank. Many of the children are whispering and finger-pointing, as they adjust to this unusual learning environment during their brief orientation. Each student has been assigned a profession (such as a reporter, a sales associate, or a custodian) in a particular business, in a specific cubicle, where he or she will work until the last shift ends at 1:25 p.m.

For weeks, these sixth-graders have prepared in their classrooms for this one-day visit, studying the topics of entrepreneurship, working life, citizenship, and the economy. In their cubicles, these 12- and 13-year-olds carefully review their daily schedules and professional responsibilities on iPads, as trained adults offer their assistance. Meanwhile, their classroom teachers are encouraged to sit back and relax; some of them elect to sip coffee from the city’s tiny cafe as they watch the action unfold.