Adulting. Can it start too early? How do young people learn that money does not grow on trees?
Author: Liliana Castañeda de Rossmann, Ph.D., PA VP
More specifically, how do parents and schools introduce elementary- and middle-school students to activities typically considered for grown-ups, such as the difference between a "want" and a "need," or how to balance a checkbook, create a budget and think about financial life choices?
Throughout the school year, GISSV students in Mountain View and San Francisco learn two curricula in as many languages: the State of California's in English and the State of Thuringia's in German. The curriculum of work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy is taught one day in the year by parent volunteers, in cooperation with Junior Achievement, a nation-wide organization dedicated to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy. Specifically, the curriculum covers topics such as how people can get in trouble with debt, what risk and credit ratings are, and how insurance works. Students learn about occupations and income, how to balance a household budget, and how trade-offs affect the quality of life in the choices they make.
Former GISSV parent Andy Keates had been recruited to teach the JA curriculum at another school as part of a volunteer team from his employer, Intel. "I loved that it taught students to appreciate how the world around them works", he said "so I assembled my own team of volunteers to bring JA to GISSV."
"In the beginning, nobody knew what it was about," says Andy. "But that first time, students went home and told their parents what they had learned. Parents loved it, found out I was responsible, and thanked me, so I was motivated to do it again." Andy brought a band of volunteers from Intel from 2008 to 2010 until his children left the school. From that positive first experience, GISSV parents took over the volunteer roles. As a way to fulfill GISSV's commitment to the notion of "Two Campuses, One School," for the first time this year, Middle School students from the San Francisco campus joined their Mountain View peers in learning about financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship.
To get ready for Junior Achievement Day held on Feb. 21st, this year's coordinators Annie Klaus and Karl Schricker organized the training which was conducted by local JA representatives. "Our coordinator role was to recruit volunteers and make sure there was someone reliable there to teach the classes. We also both taught that day, which was a very different experience from coordinating," explains Annie. She was responsible for coordinating parent volunteers in Elementary School. In the training, parent volunteers became familiar with JA's mission to "impact young people in a positive way with simple-to-implement programs," according to Junior Achievement of Northern California. Annie's own goal was to engage the students and get them interested in the economic world outside of school. "It's a fun program to teach and it's an opportunity to be in the classroom" she observes.
left: Parent Annie Klaus works with parent Andrea Schoenfelder (not shown) on a lead-in exercise to teach the business problem-solving process to students in 4b.
right: Parent Karl Schricker and students in 5a learn how to make, market, and sell hot chocolate as part of this year's Junior Achievement Day.
In his third year as JA coordinator for Middle School, Karl Schricker was responsible for the overall success of the MS classes. "My job was mostly about organization – getting people recruited, ensuring they got their materials on time, and to make the parent volunteers' lives easier," he says. When he took on the task, Karl decided to recruit lead volunteers for each class year who, in turn, would find volunteers to deliver the curriculum to that class year. The MS leads this year were Karl Schricker for 5th, Michael Tews for 6th, Rosina Larios for 7th, and Sean Eikenberg for 8th. Together, they eliminated some repetition in the MS curriculum, based on previous years' feedback, and tried to streamline it and enhance the content with a few ideas of their own. "The 5th grade students operated a hot chocolate stand during lunch hour. They made it and set their own price. They could see how the market sets the price, and were able to adjust the price so people would buy their product. They made a sign, walked around, sold to teachers, parents, and other kids. They learned something and had fun!" Karl exclaims.
Thanks to parent volunteers, on JA Day, students learn a rich lesson on financial literacy. They have the opportunity to understand how to generate wealth and effectively manage it. They can envision how to create jobs which make their communities more robust, and to apply entrepreneurial thinking to the workplace. Students put these lessons into action and learn the value of contributing to their communities. And from this year on, these high-impact classroom practices are now standard across the Middle School curriculum for students in both campuses.
Parent and former GISSV Board President Walter Rossmann, who volunteered for JA Day at Andy Keates's behest sums it up this way: "The JA curriculum gives kids a chance to answer the question 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' And they learn to answer it in a well-informed, fun, systematic, and engaging way."
"I'm glad to hear JA is still alive at GISSV. Nice to know I left a small legacy with the school," says Andy. Indeed.
For more information about Junior Achievement, please click here.