Were you one of those first-year university students that found yourself broke and struggling to stretch your meal plan with a month left of classes, wishing your parents (and teachers) spent more time on teaching you the importance of saving, spending wisely and budgeting? I know I sure was!
Rowntree Montessori Schools believes that teaching our students real-life skills, like learning financial literacy, is just as important as having strong academic skills. In our classrooms, students learn responsibility, the value of hard work, ownership, managing finances, leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, entrepreneurship, and the list goes on!
With these life skills in mind, and at the start of a new school year, one of our grade 5 teachers started a Classroom Economy project. The Classroom Economy is a financial management system that benefits both the teacher and the students by providing the simulation of real-world economic activity. Our grade 5 teacher gathered various materials for the Classroom Economy and customize the project for their specific class. Teachers then introduce the Classroom Economy to their students and train them on how they can complete tasks, jobs and chores. Students have the opportunity to choose a profession, such as a police officer, custodian, messenger, clerk, attendance monitor, banker, loan officer, meteorologist etc. Each student receives a monthly salary that varies based on his or her profession.
In our Classroom Economy, students are rewarded with “play money” for completing tasks and chores in their class and are also rewarded for doing well on tests and assignments. Students also receive “cash” for good deeds, such as being kind and helpful to other students, acting as leaders and for lending a helping hand. There are also fines in the Classroom Economy. Fines help students understand that there are costs and consequences for certain behaviours. Students can be fined for tardiness, talking during class, rudeness, missing work, a messy desk or cubby, etc.
Every month, each student receives a paycheque and is responsible for paying monthly bills such as desk rent, utilities, classroom supplies, etc. Fun activities such as auctions are included that provide the students with an opportunity to purchase personal items with the money they save from their pay cheques.
At Rowntree Montessori Schools, the Classroom Economy is more than just a lesson plan, it helps students learn the value of saving, spending, and delayed gratification. Students are taught the importance of record-keeping and tracking their monthly expenses. These skills will help carry students throughout their lifetime.
What’s great about the Classroom Economy is that students learn financial literacy in a fun and interactive way. Maya was the first student to save up enough money to purchase the deed to her desk so that she no longer had to pay rent. What will Maya do with all of her savings? At the time of this post, Maya informed me that she wants to donate her savings to her class Holiday Party. Maya may be a savvy saver, but she is a savvy saver with a kind and generous heart.