Connecting to Life Beyond the Classroom: The MicroSociety Approach

An innovative idea of the ’60s is growing in popularity.

July 1, 1997

At a MicroSociety school, it's not uncommon to find a room full of sixth-grade students debating the need for income taxes, jury duty, or enforcement agencies. After all, MicroSociety students learn by developing their own governments and free-market systems.

The idea was conceived in the 1960s by George H. Richmond, who was looking for a way to help students connect their academic studies to their lives beyond school. He settled on an approach in which students create and operate simplified models of businesses and government institutions.

More than 175 schools in twenty-nine states have since adopted the MicroSociety approach. Students in kindergarten through eighth grade spend part of each day learning academic skills and the other part participating in miniature versions of society.

Some schools have teamed up with business partners and crafts people to create elaborate edifices of banks, shops, and post offices, while others simply set up shop at whatever tables and desks are at hand. The appearances vary, but when they are open for business, MicroSociety activities resemble a busy town filled with students who are creating and selling merchandise, presiding over trials, and solving all types of problems that come with the territory.

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