8th graders at Dixon Middle School put their budgeting skills to the test in the school’s annual Reality Town. The students got a taste of what it’s like to be an adult as they spent the morning hours going from booth to booth buying cars, homes, groceries and other necessities.

The simulation activity started off with sorting the students’ jobs. Each student got a job based in their current GPA (grade point average). If they had a lower GPA they were assigned a lower paying job and a higher GPA meant a higher paying job. This was to help students understand the importance of education and how it will impact them for the rest of their lives. 

After the students received jobs, they were informed of their marital status, how many kids they had, and if they had any additional household income. One student may decide that the first thing they want to do is buy a house. They would then go over to the housing booth to see their options. Maybe they are making 30,000 dollars a year and can only afford a small 1 bedroom by the freeway, so they buy that. After they got their house, they had to go get insurance for it, which cost more money, further eating into their salary. Then they would have to make sure they had food so it’s off to the grocery booth to see what kind of food they can afford. Perhaps they have a son and have to make sure he is fed too. Maybe they want a car, but realize they would not have enough leftover to pay for its gas and instead get a bus pass. Finally, they may decide to go to the internet booth, the supplemental income booth, the personal care booth or one of the many other booths in reality town. All of them requiring more  checks to be written and less money leftover on their budget sheets. 

The teachers and staff who ran the booths had some insights to share as well. Many of them said that it was a huge reality check for the kids. One who ran the transportation booth said that kids were upset when they realized that, instead of getting that fancy sports car, they needed to get a mini van so they could transport their family. Another said that, as she was working with a student on her budget, the student said that she would never ask for money from her mom again. Others observed that many students who were pretend single parent students were starting to realize how hard it can be to raise a family on such a limited budget. 

Ultimately, Dixon Middle School’s reality town was fun and proved to be an eye opener for many of its students. As the lessons learned start to sink in, Dixon’s 8th graders will truly understand how valuable their education is. 

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