June 3, 2005 | By: Aimee Nielson

students creating homemade productsKoolsville is the newest and shortest-lived community in Kentucky. That’s because it was created by 9- to 12-year-olds for a week-long Mini-Society project sponsored by the Boone County Cooperative Extension office.

Mini-Society is a national program created in the 1970s. It is designed to teach students about economics, entrepreneurship and citizenship through hands-on learning experiences. It has been updated and tested for nearly three decades and implemented in about 43 states.

“On the first day, the students named their community and had a homework assignment to design and name their own currency,” said Amanda Lauer, University of Kentucky Extension agent for 4-H youth development in Boone County. “They decided on Koolbucks.”

Students earned Koolbucks by being on time, doing odd jobs, helping clean up, etc. They were then able to use their income to purchase or rent items from a supply warehouse to start their own small businesses. Creativity was key because later in the week they would be trying to sell their products to their fellow Koolsville neighbors.

“I’m in a partnership with another girl and we are going to do a lot of art and sell that,” said Tatiana Kisor, who will be in sixth grade later this year. “I learned a lot about setting prices and about naming a business. I’ve worked with a lot of people on deciding on how to do things. We have our own government and we vote on everything. Sometimes I don’t like it, but most of the time it works out.”

Kisor was speaking of the Town Council, organized and voted upon by Koolsville residents. When students had issues with how things in their society were working, they appealed to the council to resolve things. 

“They are making their own products and selling their own products,” Lauer said. “I’m hoping they will know a little bit about how much things cost and how important their parents are and they will see that everything is not free and cheap, so they need to conserve their money.”

The concepts in Mini-Society are designed to go hand-in-hand with curriculum the students are studying in their schools, such as language arts, math, government and law, ethics, and cooperative learning. 

“A lot of it has been review for stuff I’ve done in the second half of fifth grade, but it’s been a lot of fun,” said Kyle Zumbrunnen, who will be in sixth grade later this year. “I’m starting a business for pottery and jewelry. It will be custom jewelry, so whatever the client orders, I will make it. It’s a good way to start learning about society, but a lot of the real world is missing like taxes; we don’t have them.”

Although parts of the “real world” might be missing from Koolsville, students still learn key economic concepts, such as supply and demand, shortage and surplus, and how customer preference drives business ventures.

“This age is great because a lot of them get an allowance every week and they don’t think about things like this,” said Lauer. “Now instead of taking that money for granted, they’ll be able to understand these concepts at a younger age before they are thrown out into the real world.”

For more information about Mini-Society, visithttp://www.mini-society.org.

Contact: 

Writer: Aimee Nielson 859-257-4736, ext. 267

Contact: Amanda Lauer 859-586-6101