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South Jordan Journal

Eastlake Elementary students learn how to manage money

Jul 07, 2023 10:20AM ● By Julie Slama

Eastlake third-grade students learn about distinguishing between wants and needs while managing their finances at Kids Marketplace. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Third-grader Amelia Morrison made her way around her school’s Kids Marketplace booths, learning how to be financially secure.

As part of the Kids Marketplace program, Amelia was given a mock career — a military officer with a $400 per month salary — and dressed up in boots, gloves and a jacket.

“I wanted to dress up to the part,” she said. “I went to every booth and learned you shouldn't spend more money than you have.”

Amelia saved $290 of her salary after “buying the cheapest things which seemed like the best deals.”  Amongst her purchases were “a huge bed and a used TV for $5.” She planned to ride a bike to work so she’d be in shape and save money.

“I learned I don't want to run out of money. Expensive stuff is nice and cool, but if you get cheaper stuff, it will help you with your money. If you run out of money, life can be hard trying to pay the bills,” she said. “By saving I’ll have money if I need it for an emergency, but if I spend everything on rich things, I won’t.”

Amelia even made sure she had enough money to stop at the pet table to purchase a gerbil.

“This has been fun. I liked learning about jobs and learning how to save your money and seeing other people's costumes,” she said.

The Kids Marketplace is a real-life simulation, so the 130 third-grade students learn the importance of budgeting and saving, said teacher Andrea Utley, who said the inclusive program allows students to partner with classmates who may have special needs, such as autism or Down Syndrome, so they, too, can participate.

“We read five books about saving money and learn money doesn’t bring happiness,” she said. “We talk about living within our means and not owing others money. They learn to distinguish between wants and needs and how to manage their money. It follows the common core curriculum to learn how to count money and to learn about saving money. They learn and use vocabulary such as balance, deposit, savings, withdrawal, budget.”

Utley, who has included Kids Marketplace in her teaching all five years she’s been with Jordan School District, said that students are given an hour to go to the bank, housing, clothing and grocery stations and then go to optional booths. At every booth they’re given a choice of items they want to purchase.

For example, at a housing station students may decide between renting a one-bedroom apartment, two-bedroom apartment and buying a home based upon their monthly salary.

“We look to see who has the most money left and the why, the choices they make. A lot of students want to go to the animal shelter first to get a dog, but they learn they have to have food and housing beforehand and then, they can budget for a pet,” she said.  “They’re getting a glimpse into what it’s like to have to pay expenses in the real world, but it’s something fun which they look forward to. Some kids get into the profession they’re randomly assigned, and it becomes a secondary lesson in careers. They learn all about it and then have fun dressing up with it.”

Third-grader Camden Southerland was a paleontologist who earned a salary of $450 per month.

“I hunt for fossil bones and do experiments on those,” he said, adding that he’d like to find some of a tyrannosaurus rex. “I’ve already been to the animal shelter so I could spend my money on a lizard and a bird.  I sleep in my lab, so I don’t have to worry about having a house.”

Amber Bennett, who’s third-grade son Archer took part in Kids Marketplace, was a volunteer. She said she saw several students think outside the box.

“One kid said, ‘I'm going to get this big couch for $120 so all my friends can come over; I can sleep on it too, so I won’t have to get a bed,’” she said. “They learn they don’t have to buy everything, and they don’t have families in this simulation, so they don’t have to worry about kids and adjusting for them.”

That’s what third-grader Hudson Jensen learned as well.

“I need to make a lot of money when I’m older so I can buy a house and a sports car,” Hudson said, whose random job was mayor at a salary of $400 per month. “I don’t think I could afford to fix my car if I were to get a dent in it if I had a family to pay for.”

Bennett, who also is a substitute teacher, liked the engagement of the activity.

“I love that we're teaching them how to budget their money,” she said. “I can see a lot of the kids’ personalities in what they choose. Some kids will choose a used bed because it's cheaper and then other kids are like, ‘give me all the most expensive stuff.’ It’s all about learning about budgeting, because some will run out of money and then they have to return stuff and start again. It’s a hands-on way to learn the importance of money.”

Third-grader Sawyer Neeley had already bought groceries, transportation, clothing and visited a few other stations.

“I never spend too much money, but I just had to pay $20 at chance so now I’m worried about buying a house,” he said. “I may have to figure out something else for housing. I like Kids Marketplace. It’s fun to puzzle out how to make it all work out.” λ