TES Cubs cash in on volunteer's financial lesson

TES Cubs cash in on volunteer's financial lesson
Posted on 04/22/2019
Editor’s note: Each month of the school year, Tahoma asks its teachers and students to place special emphasis on one of the nine Future Ready Skills. Tahoma Matters features examples of how those skills are being taught in classrooms. In March, we focused on Responsible Decision-Maker, and we would like to highlight the students in this article for that skill.


In one room at Tahoma Elementary on a recent morning, a class of third-graders pretended to be quarters. Then, they worked together to create different amounts of money, such as $1, $2.25, $4.50. It was the first exercise in a series of activities designed to give them a better understanding of the world of finance -- from paper money and metal coins to concepts of supply and demand.

Volunteer and TES parent Nick Duben, who works at Columbia Bank in Enumclaw, visited five classes to teach the first session of a curriculum created by the nonprofit Financial Beginnings. The program is taught by volunteers, and was founded in Portland in 2005 to increase financial literacy. In Carolyn Yue’s class, Duben touched on the basics of economics and a shares a bit of the history of currency.

“What is money?” Duben asked the class.

“It’s something you can spend to buy stuff,” one student said.

“You use money to buy practically everything, but you can’t buy words or air,” another offered.

A third Cub said: “You use money to buy things you need, not things you want.”

Duben shared some details and trivia with the class, such as the fact that nickels, dimes and quarters are all made out of the metal called nickel, while pennies are made out of zinc with copper plating. They also talked about paper bills, which is primarily made up of cotton and linen, in order to increase its longevity.

“Do you know how many times you can fold money before it will start to tear?” he asked. The student guesses ranged from 3 to 300. Correct answer: an estimated 4,000 times, Duben said. “It has to be able to last, and regular paper just wouldn’t cut it,” he added.

They talked about other forms of payment, such as credit cards and checks, then pondered what people used to pay for goods before money was created. Asking for four volunteers, Duben assigned the students imaginary occupations: goat herder, farmer, baker and carpenter. Then, the class talked their way through different scenarios -- how could the farmer get bread for his family; how could the baker acquire wheat to make bread; how could the goat-herder get a house or barn built, and so on.

Other topics and activities in the session included:

* Think about a $1 bill. Try to draw the front and back of the bill from memory. (Then Duben talked with the class about the numbers and other designations on a dollar bill).

* How money is earned.

* The concepts of producers/consumers and supply/demand. After a brief discussion, Duben asked the class to stand up, then presented a scenario such as this one: “What will happen to the demand if we run out of oil to produce gasoline? If you think the supply will go up, move to this side of the room. If you think it will go down, move to that side of the room.” Then, he asked students to explain their reasoning.

*In the workbooks students received was an activity to complete at home with a parent, guardian or relative, asking how much items such as a gallon of milk, a movie ticket and a gallon of gas cost decades ago.

Five classes had the chance to hear from Duben, including Angela Moore’s second-graders. Moore said her students have learned to count money in math, so she appreciated the chance for them to make real-world connections.

“Students were able to touch real money and brainstorm with Mr. Duben how they actually come to have their own money,” Moore said. “Students talked about how money comes as a gift and some comes from a chore or even running a lemonade stand.”

The class was engaged and interested in talking about money and sharing experiences with their classmates, and the idea of running their own businesses -- particularly lemonade stands, she added.

Duben closed with a piece of advice for Yue’s class full of Responsible Decision-Makers: “My opinion is that you should use money on things you need, and be very careful when you spend money on things you want.”
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