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Dollars and $ense

High schoolers get real-life lessons while teaching kids the value of money.

Published March 15, 2007


Five-year-olds may know the color of money, but its value is something else.

Thanks to the Junior Achievement program, a group of kindergarten students at Moton Elementary learned what money is all about - from a group of high school students eager to teach them.

Some of the little ones knew a bit about economics, because about a third of the kids in the class said they had money in a bank account (thanks no doubt to prepared parents).

About half the kids knew the sizes and colors of pennies, nickels and dimes. The challenge was drawing a clear mental picture of the intrinsic value of those coins.

Jannel Ruiz and Maria Davis, both ninth-graders in the early childhood development program at Hernando High, came prepared. They had professional looking lesson plans, handouts, games and stories about money.

"We got these packets from (Junior Achievement)," said Jannel. "We had to decide what materials to use and how to use them."

After two days of training and hours of preparation, things should go smoothly, she thought.

Apparently, kindergarteners march to the beats of several different drummers.

"Okay," said Maria, handing out stickers shaped like money. "Let's start with the big coin."

"I don't have a big coin," one student, Michael, pointed out at top volume.

"Well, what's the biggest?" Maria encouraged.

Michael was lost in a class-wide gasp. Hands and small bodies shot up, wriggling.

"It's a penny!" loudly from Lucia.

"Not!" Michael again.

"Uh huh!" made into a four-syllable word by Uriah.

Meanwhile, Matthew was quietly lining his stickers up on his desk, a hand covering his ear, evidently to filter the enthusiasm of his classmates.

Student Julia, working at her own pace, finished most of the next two exercises.

Teachers Jannel and Maria, patient and prepared, decided to diffuse potential unrest with a story. They guided the class to the story rug, front of the room, and requested everyone be seated.

There are many forms of being seated, they discovered. Seated on another student. Or with one's head on the floor and other end up. Gentle, admonishments didn't help.

Diane Kennedy, the class's regular teacher, walked in on soft shoes.

"Crisscross applesauce," she intoned.

Thirteen bottoms hit the floor. Twenty-six legs crossed and the room was silent.

"You all know what your job is here," Kennedy said.

Maria and Jannel got through the story, rounded their charges up and corralled them back in their seats to begin another economic illustration exercise that dealt with buying a birthday present for a friend.

Only two hours to go.

Program adviser Mildred Hardeman has been in charge of the preschool program at Hernando High long enough to see her first 3-year-old preschooler, Michael Busucca, graduate from high school.

She said this Junior Achievement teaching project is a favorite. The little ones learn about money. The teens learn firsthand how lessons that work on paper sometimes might need adjustment in the classroom.

[Last modified March 14, 2007, 23:04:38]

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