Simulated city program at Sanford School is a multilayered approach to real-world skills

Every city may have a few schools in their boundaries, but it’s not every school that has a city within its walls.

That’s exactly what happens at Hockessin’s Sanford School, for five weeks each year, as students in the fourth grade elect officials, determine council appointments, and essentially

According to Sanford communications director Cheryl Fleming, the Sanford City unit is a project that focuses on math, economics, citizenship, and entrepreneurship.

“One week of elections and set-up are followed by five weeks of running an actual city in each one of our fourth-grade classrooms,” Fleming said. “In Sanford City, students earn salaries, run businesses, hold public office, pay rent for their desk, bid for land, and save money for their taxes.”

According to Fleming, there are a number of positions students can hold in the city that pay decent salaries.

There are also elected positions, such as mayor and town council, and appointed positions like bank president and city recorder.

These positions are appointed by the mayor as their first important assignment. There are also hired positions; for example, the bank president hires tellers.

Mayor Isabella Atwood put a lot of thought into the assignments she handed out, considering the candidates’ strengths and how they would benefit each position.

Her job was also to approve or disapprove of the goods and services offered up by the city’s entrepreneurs, although she didn’t have to veto any of the proffered suggestions.

“I think it’s fun – I just feel like the head of everything,” she said of her mayoral duties.

Students have the opportunity to become business owners in Sanford City, with startup costs to be paid in Sanford City Dollars. 

A business license must be purchased, and students who bring in items from home will pay a one-time fee for the privilege. They also pay for these expenses with their initial salary and bonuses.

Children can also spend $25 real dollars on items to sell in Sanford City, or towards the creation of a product.

Fleming added that it is not necessary to spend any real money to have a successful business.

“Just as in the real world, hard work is more important than anything else in running a successful business in Sanford City,” she said.

“The Sanford City experience is truly a worthwhile educational simulation of the business world, and possibly a foreshadowing of future successes to come,” said fourth grade teacher Missy Bloom. “Students expanded their knowledge of government and economics utilizing the study skills of note taking and reading for information to prepare for textbook chapter tests. These important skills were further reinforced through weekly Scholastic News quizzes in an effort to practice non-fiction reading skills so critical to success in middle school.”