PITTSBURG — Lakeside Elementary School students learned what it was like to run a business through an event called Just Imagine Kansas.

For the past few years, Lakeside fourth graders have hosted Just Imagine Kansas on Kansas’ birthday. This year Kansas is 157 years old.

The students worked for almost a month, selecting a Kansas business, researching it and preparing their booths. They made mission statements and studied what the job entails.

During the event, a student stood near a door and passed out envelopes filled with “play” money. The money was given to each participant and they each went around the “businesses” booth and purchased items and real food from the stores.

The students — at their booths — dealt with all the transactions, from change, to receipt writing and paychecks.

Lakeside Elementary School Principal Rhonda White said the students researched a variety of subjects along with giving them real world opportunity to experience running a business and explore different type of careers in the community.

The program is part of teaching students about the free enterprise system, Fourth Grade Teacher Babs Tims said.  

“Every business here represents a Kansas business, either founded in Kansas or has a Kansas connection,” she said.

The students had options on where to spend the money — to save it, spend it or give it away.

Tims said any money the students decide to donate, it will be turned into real money by parents and teachers and will be donated to K-Kids to go into charities.

Elementary students were not the only ones which benefited from the event.

Pittsburg State University Student Teacher John Juarez Garcia said the event is more than just an educational lesson, but taught life lessons such as responsibility in the workplace.

Juarez Garcia said he plans to share what he has learned during his time at Lakeside when he is a teacher.

“It’s good for them to learn this at a young age,” Garcia said. “They can become more successful adult when they grow up.

“It is a good experience that I will talk about and I will bring this to other schools.”

A parent,  Jared Turnbull, visited his daughter Hayden who worked the same job as her father Arvest Market President during the mock business event.

“I think it is a good opportunity for kids to learn what's going on in the community around them and it helps the grow awareness of local businesses,” Jared Turnbull said.

Down the halls of the school, the rest of the students also participated in Kansas Day, except a little differently than their fourth grade peers.

Third Grade Teacher Bridget Walker’s class milked their own “cows” made out of plastic gloves, churned butter, read “Little House on the Prairie” and some students dressed up, including Walker.

“We have been studying how society has changed through time,” Walker said. “Today we are focusing on pioneer life.”

In the other rooms students read books and played Kansas related games such as “The Oregon Trail” and participated in other activities.

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.