Students in Meagan Kinney’s fifth grade class at St. Thomas the Apostle School are learning firsthand how to survive in a challenging economy. Through the creation of a Classroom Economy the students are experiencing what it’s like to hold down a job, manage their money and purchase commodities.
The project began with each student writing a proposal to the teacher stating which classroom job they would like to have and why they felt they were qualified to hold the position. After careful consideration of the proposals, Ms. Kinney awarded each student a job with a weekly salary of $690 for a job well done. Some of the jobs include a floor monitor, who makes sure everyone keeps the floor around their desks neat and paper-free; a librarian, who manages the classroom collection of books; the flag person, who raises the flag up the flagpole in the schoolyard at the beginning of each school day and takes it down each afternoon; newspaper editor and reporters, who publish a weekly classroom newspaper; and a coat room monitor, who ensures that backpacks and coats hang neatly on their hooks each day. Students also have opportunity to make additional money by sharing their journal entries aloud, demonstrating great behavior and working overtime.
Fifth-grader Seamus Sullivan is the Shelf Monitor and makes sure everyone’s shelves and cubbies stay tidy. “If someone’s cubby is messy, I give them a warning. If it’s not cleaned up by the next time I check, they get a $35 fine,” Seamus explained. There are bank assistants in the classroom whose job it is to pay every employee each week and keep track of fines incurred.
“Although the job is important, it’s the managing of the money that is the lesson for these students,” said Ms. Kinney. Will students save enough money to purchase their own desk instead of renting it? After saving up the $800 to purchase their desk, will they be able to buy more property, such as classroom computers, and rent them to others?
The classmates have found that it’s easy to spend their newfound wealth frivolously. For example, nights with no homework or game time are a couple of items that may result in impulsive spending. One student chose to spend his entire pay check on a night with no homework because he had a baseball game and needed to study for a science test on the same night. He is now working his way back to fiscal strength by doing some extra work in the classroom.
“Each day I have discovered something new my students have done with their money. They are taking the initiative and finding smart ways to make their money grow,” said Ms. Kinney. “For example, Michael offered to manage another student’s money! He manages this student’s money for a weekly fee by keeping track of it and helping her to make ‘good financial choices.’ Ava sold her desk to Sean for a large sum of cash in order to buy a more lucrative property: the back resource table. However, Ned put in the highest bid for the back table, so he purchased it and has already made almost half his money back. It is also interesting to see which students are being very conservative and which ones are taking the big risks. It is great to see my students take ownership over the classroom during the last weeks of school.”