At Noah Webster School, Students Compete For Customers
By Vanessa de la Torre
January 13, 2012
The classroom lights had been shut off. An electric candle illuminated each table, a stereo played jazz -- but softly, so it didn't compete with the hum of children chatting in the Kindergarten Cafe.
Jordon Brown, 11, a sixth-grader at Noah Webster MicroSociety Magnet School, sat with his $5 dessert from the cafe menu: red apple slices drizzled with caramel, paid for Thursday afternoon with his hard-earned Wizard bucks. He would not be hurried.
"Let me finish," Jordon told a friend who was ready to leave. "I'm enjoying my apple."
Outside G100 Discovery Drive, two kindergartners with serious eyes collected fistfuls of school dollars.
Noah Webster's classrooms and hallways -- named like street addresses to facilitate the in-house mail system -- became a mini-marketplace Thursday, with about 25 student-run ventures "open for business."
Homemade Valentine's Day cards were sold on the sixth-grade Literacy Lane, where student customers also could enter a writing contest on Martin Luther King Jr.
First-year violin students held a recital on Performing Arts Way. Meanwhile, a second-grader from Brainy Boulevard encroached on first-grade territory, silently carrying a handwritten advertisement for a competing venture called King Writers. ("Hear a funny, interesting or scary story," the sign noted, and "Eat yummy popcorn.")
At Noah Webster, one of the area's top pre-K to grade 8 schools, Thursdays are known as Discovery Day -- the embodiment of a MicroSociety theme that prizes responsibility and entrepreneurial skills. Ventures are based on the students' curriculum.
More than 300 schools in the United States have a MicroSociety program, including two in New Britain and one in New Haven, and Hartford's is considered one of the country's best, said Rob Kutzik, the senior vice president for the national MicroSociety educational nonprofit.
Last year, the Hartford school system listed Noah Webster as its top school in several academic categories. A mix of 584 city and suburban students are enrolled, admitted through the state's magnet school lottery. The deadline to apply for the 2012-13 school year is Jan. 20 through the Greater Hartford Regional School Choice Office.
If luck helped bring students to Noah Webster, a West End neighborhood school that became an interdistrict magnet seven years ago, hard work is expected in the MicroSociety.
"Anything I attempt to do, I do it to the best of my abilities," said school president Talia Clarke of Hartford, 13, an eighth-grader who aspires to be a heart surgeon.
The marketplace ventures require a business plan. Students earn Wizard bucks through sales. When it's their week to be Discovery Day customers, they can't forget to "cash" their checks at the school bank for pocket money. As MicroSociety citizens, they must also carry school passports.
"You want to hear about dinosaurs?" a kindergartner called out from his classroom-turned-Dinosaur Museum Thursday.
Helping to maintain order is East Hartford's Taliyah Santiago, 11, the chief of the Peacekeepers.
The 16-member squad can cite schoolmates for infractions such as cursing (50 Wizard bucks) and running (35 Wizards). Becoming a peacekeeper required a panel interview with two state Capitol police officers and a teacher.
"If people are running," said Taliyah, a sixth-grader with a badge, "we don't want them to get hurt."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at