GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Any expert will tell you the sooner you start saving for retirement the better -- and fiscal responsibility can start young.
That's one of the reasons a third grade teacher at Chandler Woods Charter Academy in Belmont wrote a special unit to help her students understand the ins and outs of money.
"We earn our paycheck, we sign it, we endorse it and then we turn it in and we get 25 dollars which is our pay for the week," explained student Julia Zandstra.
It's payday in Ms. Flickinger's thrid grade classroom and that means "they need to pay their bills just like we do as adults with their tax, rent, and utilities. They might also have some fines that they have to pay also for police patrol or for a messy cubby or a messy desk," she explained.
It's all part of a classroom mini-economy based on a unit she wrote 15 years ago. "Each year it gets better and better. This year the kids actually did job interviews, they filled out job applications. We had super cute letters of reference. We chose specific jobs for each student to do and they keep those jobs for two weeks and then they will change to a different job so they will get a lot of different job opportunities," she explained.
It's a dose of the real world at just the right time. "When they are 8 and 9 years old they are already developing their money personality that they are probably going to have for the rest of their life. So if you think about are they going to be savers, are they going to be givers, are they going to be spenders so we are starting to mold their beliefs in how to use money and what to do with it" she said.
After their bills are paid, students have the option to visit the store, donate to the poor, or save for a pizza party. "If you want something really bad you should save up your money," said another student. "We can't just spend it on what we want and we have to pay tax," said another.
Concepts many don't grasp till later in life are now the topic at the dinner table. "They go home and they are like do you have to pay rent mom and dad? How much is the house payment? Can I see your check book. What does a check look like in real life?" so it gets them really connected to the home as well because the parents then are following through at home with asking different questions of their children based on this unit.
While the basics of earning, spending and saving remain the same...something else doesn't change no matter your age. "I always want it to be payday," said student Carson Wood.
The culminating activity for this unit is called Marketplace day on June 9th. Each third grader opens their own business or partners with one other student to do so. They will offer goods and services to their peers, parents and members of the community.
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