Sunday, December 30, 2007


Flashpoint Academy will host a special Chicago presentation of the major new education documentary "Two Million Minutes" presented by its Executive Producer, Robert Compton, for Chicago Public School officials and other Chicago-based education leaders, foundations, as well as select City officials in the new FP screening room. Non-exclusive distribution rights to the documentary were recently acquired by The Gates Foundation and representatives of the Foundation and Microsoft education leaders are also expected to be present for the showing and panel discussion thereafter. Details on the film (which has already been shown in a private presentation to Flashpoint students, staff and faculty) appear below.

Two Million Minutes


Regardless of nationality, as soon as a student completes the 8th grade, the clock starts ticking. From that very moment the child has approximately…Two Million Minutes until high school graduation…Two Million Minutes to build their intellectual foundation…Two Million Minutes to prepare for college and ultimately career…Two Million Minutes to go from a teenager to an adult?

How a student spends their Two Million Minutes - in class, at home studying, playing sports, working, sleeping, socializing or just goofing off -- will effect their economic prospects for the rest of their lives.

How do most American high school students spend this time? What about students in the rest of the world? How do family, friends and society influence a student's choices for time allocation? What implications do their choices have on their future and on a country's economic future?

This film takes a deeper look at how the three superpowers of the 21st Century ?China, India and the United States ?are preparing their students for the future. As we follow two students - a boy and a girl - from each of these countries, we compose a global snapshot of education, from the viewpoint of kids preparing for their future.

Our goal is to tell the broader story of the universal importance of education today, and address what many are calling a crisis for U.S. schools regarding chronically low scores in math and science indicators.

In many ways the six kids simultaneously fit and break national stereotypes.

Take Rohit in Bangalore. He is under intense pressure from his folks to get into a top engineering university but blows off steam singing with his "boy band" and dreams of sending demos out to record companies. In Shanghai we meet math whiz Xiaoyuan, who, while awaiting word from Yale to see if she gained early acceptance, tries out as a violinist for the top music conservatory in Shanghai.

In Indianapolis we go to school with Neil. The senior class president and former star quarterback who gave up football to focus more on his studies. He has cruised through school, but now, with a full academic scholarship to Purdue University, wonders if he is up to the college challenge. The other students profiled in the documentary - Ruizhang, Brittany and Apoorva - face many of these universal adolescent pressures as well.

To put these narratives in context we have assembled an array of interviews with specialists like former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, Congressman Bart Gordon, chair of the House Committee on Science, Harvard economist Richard Freeman as well as top Indian CEOs, and leading scientists in America.

Statistics for American high school students give rise to concern for our student's education in math and science. Less than 40 percent of U.S. students take a science course more rigorous than general biology, and a mere 18 percent take advanced classes in physics, chemistry or biology. Only 45 percent of U.S. students take math coursework beyond two years of algebra and one year of geometry. And 50 percent of all college freshmen require remedial coursework.

Meanwhile, both India and China have made dramatic leaps in educating their middle classes - each comparable in size to the entire U.S. population. Compared to the U.S., China now produces eight times more scientists and engineers, while India puts out up to three times as many as the U.S. Additionally, given the affordability of their wages, China and India are now preferred destinations for increasing numbers of multinational high-tech corporations.

Just as the Soviets' launch of a tiny satellite ignited a space race and impelled America to improve its science education, many experts feel the United States has reached its next "Sputnik moment." The goal of this film is to help answer the question: Are we doing enough with the time we have to ensure the best future for all?


Executive Producer

The Two Million Minutes storyline was conceived by Robert A. Compton and he also has served as Executive Producer of the documentary. Compton has had a distinguished business career as a venture capitalist, as former President of a NYSE company, as the entrepreneur founder of four companies and as an angel investor in more than a dozen businesses. Compton has traveled the world extensively. His trips to India in 2005 and 2006 inspired him to author a blog , publish a book - Blogging Through India - and to create the documentary Two Million Minutes.

Director and Editor
Chad Heeter joined Compton on this film project in the spring of 2006, as he was completing his Master's degree in Journalism and Latin American Studies at U.C. Berkeley. Heeter has been the Senior Producer throughout the film making process.

Adam Raney joined Heeter as a Producer in January 2007. He also holds a Master's degree in Journalism and Latin American Studies from U.C. Berkeley. The two have worked as reporters and filmmakers in Latin America, Asia, Europe and the United States. Their last project together was a documentary on Brazil's landless movement for Frontline/World on -

Both Heeter and Raney have been interested in education since spending two years teaching as members of Teach for America. Heeter was a high school science teacher in Georgia, and Raney taught junior high science, English and social studies in New York City. Heeter also went on to teach in Japan.



2MM shows the priorities and pressures of six students ?two each from the United States, India and China. Their personal stories show how these three countries educate their youth and lay the foundations for future economic growth.

Brittany Brechbuhl, 17, Carmel, Indiana.
Brittany is in the top three percent of her graduating class and dreams of becoming a doctor. She wants to balance a professional life with a family once she finishes her studies.

Neil Ahrendt, 18, Carmel, Indiana.
Neil is senior class president and a National Merit semifinalist. He is unsure of what he wants to be when he grows up, but is confident he will find success.

Apoorva Uppala, 17, Bangalore, India.
Apoorva aims to become an engineer which she says is the safest profession in India. She spends her Saturdays in tutoring sessions with many of her friends as she prepares for admission exams.

Rohit Sridharan, 17, Bangalore, India.
Rohit wants to gain acceptance to one of the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology, the top engineering schools in the country. He spends nearly all his time preparing for the IIT entrance exam.

Hu Xiaoyuan, 17, Shanghai, China.
Xiaoyuan is one of her school’s most well-rounded students. She plays violin and hopes to study biology at a top university. She has applied for early admission at Yale University.

Jin Ruizhang, 17, Shanghai, China.
Ruizhang is the top math student at his school and competes in international math tournaments. He dreams of studying in the advanced math program at Peking University when he graduates from high school.


2MM covers a wide range of viewpoints from experts on the state of global secondary education and its impact on international competitiveness.

Robert Reich
Former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Professor at U.C. Berkeley. Reich regularly comments on education and economics for the nationally broadcast daily radio program, Marketplace. He speaks often of the need to prepare students for the global knowledge economy.

Shirley Ann Jackson
Physicist, President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, former Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Jackson received the National Science Board’s prestigious Vannevar Bush Award in 2007, for a lifetime of achievements in scientific research and education. Jackson has called the math-science gap in the U.S. “The Quiet Crisis.?/p>

Bart Gordon, (D-TN)
Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology. Gordon, a 12-term congressman introduced legislation to implement key recommendations for scientific research and education from the National Academy of Sciences report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm.

Vivek Paul
former Vice Chairman and CEO of WiPro technologies of India. Paul came to the U.S. from India as an M.B.A. student in 1980. He was one of Thomas L. Friedman’s main guides as Friedman framed the thesis for The World is Flat.

Tim Draper
Founder and Managing Director of Draper Fisher Jurvetson venture capital firm. Draper has served on the California State Board of Education and chairs BizWorld, a 501c3 organization that teaches entrepreneurship and business to children.

Vivien Stewart
Chinese Education Specialist, the Asia Society. Stewart leads educational exchanges to share expertise between American and Asian educators on reforms to meet the demands of the global economy. She was the primary author of, Math and Science Education In a Global Age: What the U.S. Can Learn from China.

Richard Freeman
Economist, Harvard University, and Director of the Labor Studies Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Freeman, the author or editor of over 35 books, writes regularly on a wide range of issues including the science and engineering job market, Chinese labor markets, and youth labor market problems.

Vivek Wadhwa
Executive-in-Residence, Duke University, Master of Engineering Management program. Prior to coming to Duke, Wadhwa launched two software companies. His reports ?Where The Engineers Are, and Intellectual Property, the Immigration Backlog, and a Reverse Brain-Drain: America's New Immigrant Entrepreneurs ?focus on the impact of globalization on the engineering profession.

HAT Boggle Doll Released - Huge Sales Reported

Flashpoint Academy Starts 2008 Off with a Series of Special Events - International Music David Broza to Perform and Work with Students on January 17th

Fresh from some year-end performances in New York in support of his new Masada DVD with Shawn Colvin and Jackson Browne, and after a short hop over to Punta Del Este, Uruguay for a concert, David Broza will jet back to Chicago to join Flashpoint Academy students and faculty for a recording session, performance and Q & A at our new facilities and then return to his tour for a huge concert in Seville, Spain at the end of January. This is an amazing opportunity for all of us and it couldn't be more exciting. Some background on David and his thoughts on inspiration and details on those musicians he feels influenced him appear below.

David Broza

For more than a decade, singer/songwriter David Broza has been steadily gaining reputation throughout the world. A superstar in his homeland of Israel, he is a modern troubadour of urban folk-rock. With 19 albums to his name, many of which became gold, platinum, and multi-platinum, his popularity achieved new heights with the enormous success of his quadruple platinum album “The Woman By My Side”.
Critics, moved by Broza’s flamenco-tinged, folk-rock melodies, his keen talent for breathing musical life into sensual snippets of poetry, and his dark and sultry good looks, have been quick to label him as “a post-modern Leonard Cohen,” the “Stevie Ray Vaughn” of folk rock, and even “the Mel Gibson of Rock n’ roll.”

But while honored by the comparisons, Broza forges his own road through the music scene all over the world. His American debut album, "“Away From Home"” was praised by the New York Times as one of the best pop albums of the year. ”Time of Trains”, his second American release, gained him recognition as one of the most important artists on the music scene all over the world. Broza has made a mission of studying the work of American writers for the past several years, haunting libraries and bookstores, "“always reading with a melody in my head.”

The worldliness in Broza’s songs sets them apart from many others in the genre, and sophisticated listeners will also recognize a diversity of cultural influences in his music. The son of an Israeli/British businessman and a folk singer, he was born in Haifa, Israel (where his grandfather founded an Arab-Israeli settlement), and was raised and educated in England and Spain. Broza originally planned to become a graphic artist, and by age 17, was selling his paintings in the Rastro, Madrid’s famous Sunday flea market. However, after high school graduation, he was drafted into a three-year term in the Israeli military. Stationed away from family and friends, he began playing guitar in cafes to earn extra money, and was eventually offered a record deal. Since he still hoped to attend the Rhode Island School of Design, he declined. He later recorded a tape to promote his live shows. “Somehow, one of the songs became a #1 hit in Israel,” he explains. At age 21, he was a star, and by age 27 he was being mobbed by fans in the street as his recordings went triple platinum.

At the height of all that popularity, Broza has started forming yet another base for himself in the United States, building a strong legion of fans, and maintaining a hectic touring schedule. Now an artist-in-residence at Bennington College in Vermont, he’s also gained a wealth of respect in American literary circles and often guest lectures in college writing classes.

An activist, who is committed to several humanitarian causes, Broza was appointed a goodwill ambassador for the UNICEF. His song “Together” (co-written with Ramsey Mclean) was the theme song for the UNICEF 50th anniversary celebration in more than 148 countries.

Meanwhile, the singer/songwriter continues to record albums in Hebrew for his Israeli fans, and travels frequently all over the world. A 1994 and 1999 live concerts recorded at the top of Massada resulted in platinum albums. His latest Spanish language release, “Isla Mujeres” was released this year in Spain, and is gaining superstar recognition in Spain.

David creates a unique style of multi-cultural musical blend, sung in poetic rhythms of three languages. Broza is a captivating, compelling performer who masters his guitar into submission. He is the creator of a classical suite, which has been performed with various orchestras all over the world. His latest concert tours include Belgium, Spain, Argentina, Germany, Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil and the United States.

Most of all, Broza remains buoyed by the self-fulfillment of living his dream. “I’m just happy to be a singer/songwriter and to be making a living from it, “ he notes. “You have to be in it for the fun or you might as well sell shoes.”
David’s new collection CD, “Painter Postcard” was released on Rounder Records. His new Hebrew recording“All or Nothing” was released this year and went gold witin one week, as well as its Spanish version, "Todo o Nada".

David Broza’s sound and stage presence goes beyond any fashion. To hear David Broza’s music is to be moved. To see Broza in concert is to be mesmerized.


I am uninspired! Nothing comes to mind...

I am sitting in a spacious stark office overlooking 3rd Ave. in Manhattan, my guitar is in NJ, my mind in Madrid, my soul wants to be in Tel-Aviv and tomorrow I will be playing in Austin TX. I am asking myself how did I get so far? I have been writing songs since 1977. Until the day when I set my mind to write or compose my first song I had no illusions of becoming a musician.

Sure I played the guitar, I figured out chords for Dylan songs, John Denna, Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, the band Jackson Brown, Otis Redding, James Tylor, Juan Manuel Serrat, Paco Ibanez, Cecilia, Lole and Manuel, Shalom Hanoch, Mati Kaspi, and many others.

Never had I even contemplated becoming a professional muscian or song writer, so here I am twenty four years later, with over two hundred published songs and I am thinking to myself how has this happened?

I was always artistic, from the age of 10 I remember myself drawing and painting. I was always drawn to the solitary environment of the artist. I loved putting myself in front of blank paper and creating my own world of color and images.

I would lose sense of time and place even when my friends would call out to me from the street on which I lived in a small neighborhood in Tel-Aviv. I just loved being in my own world.

When I was almost twelve years old my parents moved to Madrid, Spain-- this was a big change I think during that first year in Madrid I became connected with a deeper sense of myself.

I was in a new country having to learn two new languages simultaneously, Spanish and English, no friends to hang out with, and I was confined to my room for most of the hours of the afternoon and then many hours on weekends. But my father bought me an easel and new paints and I just loved creating with them. As a diversion from painting I would play a daily game of chess which I found in our Israeli newspaper "H'aaretz" that was delivered to us daily.

This lonely environment taught me how to connect when I sit down with songs. When I try to think what inspires me I tend to refer more to "how I get inspired" and from the "how" I go to "what". The time in my life when I was still premature, becoming a person, this is because the feelings and emotions inside of me today are the same basic ones as in those days. I always feel them they never leave me -- then I write music and then perform it. Those feelings evoke my passion, I think sadness at an early age has a very lasting effect in a person's life.


After I got over the first round of rock music, I began to settle down a little into the folk-rock mode. One of the first artists I listened to was J.T. Even today as I have developed my own style I very often find that his light fingerpicking style sneaks in midst the Spanish flare.

Paco Ibanez was very influential during the 70's. Paco dedicated his career to writing music to contemporary Spanish poetry much of which was written by poets who symbolized an anti-Franco message. Rafael Alberti, Leon Felipe, Federico Garcia Lorca, etc.

I would dare say that he is the most influential personality in rock music. Bob Dylan's commitment to the narrative in song and to the continuous melody with the constant flow of Appalachian as well as the blues, soul, gospel, folk and jazz influences makes his music a never-ending source of inspiration. I first heard Bob Dylan when I was 14 and a friend of mine in Madrid, Anthony Friend, who later became the drummer in my first band, played a recording.

Listening to Joni Mitchell around the time when I was just beginning to formulate the sound of the guitar in my mind, gave me a very unique way of thinking. I got to know the magic of open tuning on the guitar. Ever since then it seems that I always position my fingers on the fret board trying to get the most open sound. Of course reading her poetry has made me ever so much more attracted to her writing. However, Joni Mitchell's singing is one thing that I never get tired of even today.

Manzanita is one of the pioneers in the flamenco pop world. His very melodic songs with southern poetry and romance is very compelling. He has a very simplified way of singing flamenco.

The most important singer of all time in Israel. Aric has invented his own sound in Hebrew pop music. I remember his voice always in the back of my head during the years that I lived o voice is a reference to Hebrew singing.

I don't think anyone has affected me more than Jimi Hendrix. Since the day that I first heard his music, something deep inside clicked. It wasn't until I was 22 years old that I considered myself as an artist i.e. a painter. So I would listen to music as I sat in front of my drawing table and would get inspired by music. A lot of the music was jazz, and then there was a lot of rock and folk rock etc. Jimi Hendrix evoked feelings so deep in me that I must say in all honesty that a lot of the times when I play live shows, that sound of his comes to mind and drives me to the energy that I deliver on stage.

During the 70's Juan Manuel Serrate was the real leader of the Spanish singer songwriters. His origins are from Catalonia, and many of his albums were recorded in the native language, Catalan. He dedicated a few albums to poets such as Antonio Machado or Miguel Hernandez. These recordings had an immense impact on me. I thought it was bold and brave that at a time when censorship Prevailed, after all it was during the Franco era, and it was a statement against the dictatorship. Then there was the music. Juan Manuel Serrate wrote the most melodic songs with very lavish arrangements, and that gave the music its pop sound. Ever since I listened to these recordings I always thought that for me poetry could be the key to my song writing.

I was introduced to Towns Van Zandt in Houston, TX when I was invited to share the stage with him during a series that was dedicated to singer-songwriters at the Writers in the Round Circle. It was a most magical night. We took turns in singing our songs. David Amram was another giant artist that was sharing the stage that night. The evening lasted over three hours of non stop singing and I walked out of there feeling as if I had just met the keeper of the true American traditional songwriter. This is what I had come to America for. My time in the U.S. was a time that I wanted to get close to the source of the music that had influenced me so much. This was IT. We had a couple more times that we collaborated on stage, but then unfortunately, Towns passed away.

Matthew Graham was the first American poet that I set to music. I had been living in the U.S. for about a year and was writing with different writers when it occurred to me that I should be looking for a poet to work with. I had no references as to where to start looking when I came across the New York Times Book Review. Matthew Graham's first book was being reviewed and I happened to find it extremely appealing to what I needed. I was able to locate him in the Mid-West and we set up a meeting and things started to happen. I began writing music to his poems and started accumulating songs. The relationship grew and through Matthew I got to know other poets. In 1989 I released my first American CD, which contained several collaborations with Matthew. His openness to my ideas has been a tremendous source of inspiration to me. His writing sparks a truth that I can identify with and which draws on my musical creativity. Since that first production we have recorded many more songs together.

I met Liam Rector at the first meeting that I had with Matthew Graham. We met in Baltimore, MD where Liam was living. I had to get Matthew excited about letting me work on his poetry and as I was explaining myself Liam got excited and handed me a book of his poetry. I was going through the poems, when my eyes fell on a haunting poem "IN SNOW". I felt that I found a masterpiece. It took me eight years to figure out the music for it, but when it finally came, it was a masterpiece. I recorded the song in 1994 on the CD- Second Street. Throughout the years I had many meetings with Liam. He invited me to his home to come and stay and talk about poetry and music. These meetings were the essence of my creative research. Liam has always directed me towards poets that he thought should be interesting for my work. And so he introduced me to Theodore Rothke, Alberto Rios, Heather McHugh and many more. In a sense, Liam Rector has been a mentor over the years.

Terry Cox and I started our collaboration in the early 90's .We were drawn to each other as writers through our mutual passion for poetry. Although Terry was more of a songwriter I found that her deep understanding of literature and the American culture enabled me to write songs from scratch, which had a very poetic depth. Our writing, a lot of times would start from conversations about thing that either Terry or I was going through, or as one song we wrote on the run "When a Man Holds a Woman", which I actually got Terry to write as I was driving to the studio and by the time I got there the song was written, my music clicked right on and about an hour later it was recorded. Terry is so deeply intense and good that it is very satisfying to share the writing with her.

I met Ramsey at the time when I was playing on a regular basis at the LONESTAR ROADHOUSE in NYC. We were introduced to each other by the manager of the club. This relationship produced many songs together. My immediate fascination with Ramsey was his sense of humor and love of Jazz. Also I was very happy that he wasn't afraid of my mixing pop music with poetry. Ramsey taught me a lot about the South and especially about his hometown, New Orleans, LA. He really writes Jazz. His way of making a song is by virtually composing words that have sounds "... I wasn't out popping a cork or drawing a weekend down, I was waiting for you, watching the world, whirl around..." This is from " Watching the World" from the CD Time of Trains.

If not for Yehonatan I don't think I would have gone into the music world. Until I met with him I was always sure that I would be dealing with art. I thought that I would become a designer of some sort. But life has its ways, and just before my release from the army in Israel, I got a phone call from Yehonatan's office, asking if I would be interested in performing in his show. At the time Yehonatan's show was the hottest thing in the Israeli market. I was very flattered. Still I had no intentions in developing my career in that direction. A couple of weeks went by and I was getting into the show, and Yehonatan asked me if I would collaborate on writing a song with him. I obliged and thus wrote my first song, "Yihye' Tov ". My life was transformed and I haven't looked back since then. Yehonantan remains my closest Friend and mentor in the creative world.

Meir Ariel was ONE OF A KIND. I have never met anyone who was SO inspiring. I could be thousands of miles from home ie. Israel and I would close my eyes and mumble to myself a couple of lines from one of his songs and I would be home. Meir had the most distinct way of writing Hebrew. He would combine modern words with biblical phrases and anecdotes. His sense of humor was charged with romance, playful, and flirtatious love affairs. Since I have always had a fascination with Hebrew, Meir filled me with endless inspiration. The magic of Meir started being around him. His philosophy of life, his endless quest for research of the language from the bible on. His home and his family were and are the root of his art. Meir Ariel passed away suddenly on the summer of 1999. He has left behind him a huge amount of scripture, which will continue to enrich our life.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Nice Write-Up in REEL Chicago on the Chevy Chase Visit to Flashpoint Academy

Live from Chicago, it’s Chevy Chase! Actor surprises Flashpoint Academy students with visit

Chevy Chase on a recent visit to Flashpoint

Flashpoint Academy students will be talking about the surprise visit tutorial from famous comedian/actor Chevy Chase who spent an hour with them after a tour of the facilities.

Chase talked about the importance of creative collaboration, honing in on writing and took Q&A from the students, reported Flashpoint spokesperson Rachel Landry.

So how did Connecticut resident Chase and his wife, Jayni, find their way to brand new, three-month old Flashpoint visual arts school in the heart of Chicago’s Loop?

Like many a hook-up, the connection was made through a friend-of-a-friend. Jayni Chase’s best friend knew a Flashpoint student and had taken a facilities tour last summer.

She told Jayni how impressed she was and suggested that when the Chases came to Chicago to visit their daughter, who lives here, that they should check out the school.

Flashpoint’s Howard Tullman and Chevy Chase speak to students

A time and date was arranged and Flashpoint president Howard Tullman personally escorted the Chases through the lavish two floors of classrooms and studios. Chase graciously sat down with the students to give them a rare insider’s look at the visual media industry that money can’t buy.

As a bonus for Flashpoint, Jayni Chase, a passionate environmentalist and author, was interviewed for Flashpoint’s production of a video for the City of Chicago on LEED green buildings. The DVD will be given to architects and contractors.

On another note: Cincinnati-based, award-winning composer Rob Fetters will be the guest speaker Dec. 14 at Flashpoint’s monthly Industry Workshops that keep academia and the general public involved in advancing digital arts technology and entertainment. See for details.

Flashpoint Academy is located at 28 N. Clark St.; phone 312/332-0707. See —Ruth L Ratny

Friday, December 21, 2007

Senior Reps from Mayor's Office Visit Flashpoint Academy

We had an interesting visit to Flashpoint Academy with Hardi Bhatt(Mayor's Tech Council),Pat Harney (Deputy Chief of Staff) and Brian Murphy (1st Deputy Chief of Staff) and discussed various ways we could work with the City on tours and other programs.

Microsoft General Manager of US Education Anthony Salcito Visits Flashpoint Academy with Maria Wynne - Senior Director - Economic Development

Starting in January, Flashpoint Academy will begin installing new Microsoft software and hardware along with special software and game development tools for XBOX Live and to support new Microsoft initiatives for independent game development and joint commercial marketing for XBOX games developed by Flashpoint students and faculty.

Flashpoint Academy Hosts First Steelcase Training Session in the Steelcase Studio

Flashpoint Academy Students Participate in Collaboration Workshop

Opening Sessions

Film Project

The Game


Thursday, December 20, 2007

LINKS to TV Coverage of Chevy Chase Visit to Flashpoint Academy

The Links to the ABC and NBC TV coverage of the Chevy Chase visit to Flashpoint Academy TV coverage are at:

or click on the title to this post.

Link to Experiencia-Exchange City Piece on 190 North

Click on the Title to this Post or go to the link below:

Flashpoint Academy Studios Completes First DVD for Hillary Clinton

Experiencia and Exchange City Featured in Highland Park News Article

Red Oak fifth-graders run their own city
December 20, 2007

Fifth-graders from Red Oak School in Highland Park participated in Experiencia's Exchange City on Dec. 10 and ran their own city, from the mayor's office and the police department to the news media and the business community.

Exchange City, located at 770 N. Halsted St. in Chicago, welcomes fifth- and sixth-grade students for a day, after they have studied a 40-hour curriculum based on economics, math and social studies.

Experiencia is an educational company providing unique and immersive learning programs in two areas: Exchange City and EarthWorks, a science, math and language arts program for third- and fourth-grade students.

Experiencia won the 2007 Chicago Innovation Award, which honors Chicago-area businesses and nonprofit organizations that develop the year's most innovative new products and services.

Before experiencing Exchange City, the Red Oak students learned about the different jobs they could take on, including managing editor, reporter, judge, property manager, bank president, Postal Service agent, production manager, graphic designer and DJ. To get the job, they wrote their resume, filled out applications and participated in interviews.

Supply and demand

Furthermore, they studied supply and demand, government and laws, goods and services and banking and personal finance, among other important concepts they had to become familiar with to run their own city.

Highland Park officials, including Mayor Michael Belsky, State Sen. Susan Garrett, State Rep. Karen May, School District 112 Superintendent Maureen Hager and Red Oak Principal Susan Cahail, participated in the simulation by purchasing goods from the retail establishments and interacting with the many business employees.

"The important thing is hand-on learning, which is very motivating to students and immediately engages them," Hager said.

At Exchange City, the Highland Park students used state-of-the art technologies and equipment in a very realistic environment to write and enforce laws for their city and take on roles as consumers, business owners and law makers.

Cahail shared her views about Exchange City. "Educationally, students have had the opportunity to apply lessons in the classroom to real-life situations."
She said she was seeing problem-solving and watching them work together.
"It's valuable to take on leadership and collaborative roles as they come together as a community," she said.

Walking around Exchange City is like going around a real little town, with store fronts, a snack shop, a mini LaSalle Bank with video cameras and panic buttons, a radio station, a newspaper, a post office, a police and fire department, a real estate company and a distribution center.

'No running'

One of the first actions students took when they became citizens of Exchange City was to vote on city laws, which were posted at Town Hall square. They read, "No food outside of Snack Shop," "No gum chewing," "Clean up after yourself," "No running" and "Respectful behavior is expected."

Across the Snack Shop on Mayor Daley Plaza were three large green dumpsters for recyclable items, emphasizing the city's environement-friendly focus.
Students also elected the different city officials. At City Hall, a judge (a volunteer father) was present for those who received a ticket. One of Mayor Gloriann Lance's responsibilities was to meet with the judge and decide the fine amounts, which "must be fair."

She also had to make sure that the city finance manager mailed the tax bills.
Lance said her favorite part of the job was to sign the checks. "I feel very powerful," she said.

Experiencia Chairman Howard Tullman said that each business takes a loan for the day, and each person who works gets paid $2 twice a day. In addition, every business has an accountant and a telephone, Tullman said.

Eddie Smoliak, vice president of the bank, was in charge of writing the bills and bringing checks to the various businesses. When customers waited in line to get money, Smoliak clicked their name on the bank's database and verified that they had money available so he could give them an additional $2.

Reporters and editors were busy putting together the daily newspaper. Nikol Manof, a reporter, was typing a news article after having gone around the town to take pictures.

The owner of the Distribution Center, Reece Pulfer, oversaw the sale of raw materials for the various businesses, from color paper and yarn to pop corn. Employees there learned about supply and demand by taking order forms and delivering materials with their own UPS service.

"I learned that selling stuff isn't as easy as you think because I have to organize it all," Pulfer said.

When Exchange City citizens were done with their job, they could go around town and shop. Some bought stamps and mailed letters at the U.S. Postal Service, which then led Benji Rubin, a postal service agent, to collect the mail, sort it out and deliver it.

The post office simulation gave Rubin a positive image of the job, as he said that maybe he wants to become a postal service agent.
Other citizens bought a newspaper, food (pop corn, pita chips or hummus) at the Snack Shop or a hand-made banner at the Sports Center, designed as the front of Wrigley Field.

Throughout the day, the top 25 songs that the citizens had picked were being played, interrupted only by citizen announcements and song dedications that could be purchased from the DJ recording studio.

Key to the city

Back at City Hall, the mayor read over her notes before addressing Exchange City's citizens at they day's second Town Hall meeting. There she presented a proclamation to each of the guests and the key to Exchange City to Mayor Belsky.
"This is just a phenomenal learning experience," Belsky said.

He added that our lives are affected by local stores and government. "Because of what you've done, you'll be better citizens," he said.

"You have learned all the possibilities that you have. You can be anyone and anything that you choose to be," Hager told her fifth-grade audience.

Monday, December 17, 2007

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