Walsingham Academy 5th Graders have been participating in My Classroom Economy, a free financial literacy program created by The Vanguard Group. Based on the work of Rafe Esquith, an award-winning 5th Grade teacher in Los Angeles, the program aims to instill basic personal financial skills and an understanding of the value of delayed gratification by creating a simulated micro economy in which students learn through experience the relative importance of earning, spending, and saving money.
Each student is responsible for paying rent on his or her locker every month. To earn "classroom dollars" to pay for this, students take on classroom jobs that require daily attention (including jobs such as banker, clerk, building maintenance, or store clerk) and earn a paycheck each month. Bonuses can be earned for academic and behavioral success, and fines can be levied for missing assignments and misbehaving. Rent on the locker is $1,000 a month; for $3,000, students can buy their locker and never have to pay rent again.
Every other month, a classroom auction is held, where students are able to bid on and purchase items ranging from privileges, such as being able to choose your own seat in class for a week, to tangible goods, such as gift cards.
In total, students learn vital life skills through actual experience. They discover the value of earning a paycheck, budgeting their spending, saving for what they want to obtain, and managing paperwork. Most importantly, they learn that every decision has an opportunity cost. "The program has had a definite impact on taking responsibility for actions, such as getting homework in on time," said Walsingham 5th Grade Teacher Mary Beth Hughes. "The students have done an excellent job with their job responsibilities and have actually gone above and beyond in many ways."
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