Earning while learning

Fourth-graders getting lesson in money, life

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Who says school's not work? And as such, some Ridgeview Elementary School students are getting paid for it.

Fourth-graders in Jill Hafey's class earn $2 a day for showing up and being on time. If they're late, it costs them $1.

"Right now, this is their job," she said.

Once every two weeks they take their pretend earnings to the "store" where they can purchase real snacks, school supplies or toys.

It's all part of a lesson on money. Students open a checking account starting with a balance of $30. During the month, that balance fluctuates based on factors students control -- they earn money for positive behavior and lose it for negative behavior. Their bottom line also is affected by factors they can't control. Every now and then Hafey chooses a student at random to draw from a pile of "cheers and tears" cards.

Kayla Hall got a $325 tax refund. Her boon didn't drive her to excess, though. When the store opened, she bought one small item.

Mogan Shrum on the other hand, had $7 left over after she paid $6 for missing school and being late and spent $30 to go skiing.

"I did not have fun," she said about her "ski trip." "I had to pay a lot."

She still left the store with a yo-yo, a rubber ball and a stamper.

And no money in her checking account.

Paul Perschon earned $26 and managed to check out of the store with $26 worth of merchandise.

"So," he said. "I can still earn money. Every week I can earn."

Random acts of kindness can earn students as much as $5. Of course, being rude costs $5. Students also pay $25 in rent. They earn $2 for keeping their desks neat and lose money if they forget their homework.

At the beginning of the lesson, students got to determine what actions earned them money and what actions lost it. And, they got to choose the amount.

The experience is teaching students a lot about the way the real world works in a way they enjoy.

"The kids absolutely love it," she said. "We have a lot of fun."

They love it as much as Hafey did when she was a student at Craig Middle School and her math teacher used the store concept to teach his students about money and balancing a checkbook.

"That experience is what has kind of driven me because I absolutely loved it," Hafey said. "I would go to school even if I was puking just to do it."

Hafey saves the lesson until after Christmas break when students are tired and need something to spice them up.

She mostly uses her money to stock the store, though she's picked up some items at teaching conferences and plan to solicit donations for others.

The store opens every two weeks. Students collect their paychecks and cash them at the bank. Each week a different student acts as the banker and gets paid for doing the job.

Then, the students take their "cash" to the store. They're expected to keep a running total of the items they choose so the expense doesn't go over what they have.

Before going to the store, students must balance their checkbooks, which includes paying their bills.

Shrum wrote a check to Mrs. Hafey for the $6 she owed for missing school and a check for her ski trip. When she cashed her paycheck she set aside some money to deposit into her checking account to cover her expenses.

The lesson likely will continue through April, but it will end when the students get bored with it and can demonstrate they've learned the skills.

Mitch Romney was the store's first cashier, so he got the first shot at the merchandise in the store. He chose a stapler.

"I write a lot of stories, so I've got to staple them," he said.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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