Intrepid reporterAt the local bank, tellers work feverishly to process deposits and manage accounts. Taylor Swift and Beyonce serenade from the radio station. At the City Jail, Judge John Phillips presides over offenders guilty of crimes like speeding, littering and writing hot checks.

Yesterday, Highlander School hosted its annual Carden Cove  – similar to Richardson ISD’s Enterprise City. The one-day event, designed for 4th-6th graders, allows students to experience – not just talk about – what it’s like to earn, budget and spend money. Each student has a job and a paycheck, which, they quickly determine, doesn’t  go as far as expected.

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You can check out my photo slideshow here.

At Carden Cove, you can work, shop, have a banner made at the sign shop, make a request to hear your favorite song on the radio, deposit your paycheck at the bank, place an ad in the newspaper, make a purchase at the general store or pay off a fine at City Hall.

“Everyone has an important job to do,” said 6th grader Blake Brown, president of the bank, “everyone plays a part. It kind of resembles real life – on a smaller scale.”

“I like being president of the bank because I get to have lots of money,” he joked. Then he became pensive. “I learned that you’re not always going to have all the money you want.”

“This is the hardest job, because we’re always busy,” said Tanner Cabaniss, 6th grader and executive editor of the newspaper. “I take what others write and fix it up,” he added, “but I do worry that if I change it, they might not like it.”

“At the end of the day, when we distribute the paper, I will feel a sense of accomplishment. We put so much into it and I get to watch people enjoy it.”

“We’re learning how to work in a real city and handle real money,” said Jai Peris, a 4th grader selling ads for the newspaper. “I think it will give me confidence when I get older. I’ve been visiting a bunch of colleges with my older brother. Now I think I’ll be ready to handle my own money when I go to college.”

Lincoln Dales, a 5th grader, is selling radio spots and running the dance hall. So far, the most-requested songs are Katy Perry’s “Fireworks,” “The Chicken Dance” and “YMCA.” Working in a radio station is interesting, he says, but he has his eye on law school.

Mason Dow is a born politician. He’s the 6th grader elected Mayor of Carden Cove, and his morning speech was filled with thanks and praise for the teachers and parent volunteers who made the day possible.

“Everything is going great,” he told me, wearing a coat and tie, “Not many people have had to go to jail.” (He confided that this was partly because folks were following the rules and partly because Police Chief Pamela Patterson was so very strict.)

Evan Moudy, working in the sign shop, said he enjoys the creative process. “Customers tell us what they want and we design it. It feels good, like you accomplished something, you made someone feel good.”

Tristan Leach, the intrepid reporter shown in the photo above, interviewed parent volunteers for his article in the Carden Cove Chronicle newspaper. Anna Leigh Phillips, president of the Highlander Parent Association, answered all the 4th grader’s questions thoughtfully.

I’ve got an appointment with Tristan later. I’m hoping he’ll share some tips.