No, they’re not running a child labor sweat shop at Somerset Pines Charter School, but the kids do work for their “Bulldog Bucks” at the Pompano Beach academy.
"We just wanted to make it a city within a school," said Dr. Donna Kaye, principal of the five-year-old public school.
From a smoothie shop to a photo studio where they charge $10 per picture to a paint your own pottery store, there are 21 businesses at the school's marketplace.
"It's a whole new way of teaching and learning with the students and the teachers, but it's been fantastic so far," Dr. Kaye said.
Twice a month, for 90 minutes at a time, the K-8 school transforms into the marketplace, with students alternating between work days and shopping days. They get paid but have to pay taxes and donate to charity. They learn citizenship, the value of work and lots of math.
"Instead of using work sheets and doing practice problems, they're actually using these math skills we're teaching them in real-life situations, they're getting paid, putting it into a banking system, having to pay taxes and at the end of the day having to count out how much profit did we make with a business or giving someone change," math teacher Jason Skolits said.
In the nail salon, the workers learn to do manicures. In the bakery, they learn how to bake and sell cookies, cupcakes, and brownies.
“I think they get a sense of responsibility and accomplishment, they actually make their own goods, they see it getting sold, they see the value of the Bulldog Buck they're earning," bakery manager Sara Goddard said.
Goddard said the bakers are making so much dough for the program, they've already asked for raises, which she says is exactly how the cookie would crumble in the real world.
Dr. Kaye said her goal now is to expand the program next year to include a central bank. For now, she’ll settle for a student body excited to be getting a taste of adult life.