Research shows that children start forming habits about money as early as seven years of age, and the University of Delaware’s Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship (CEEE) at the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics is helping local elementary school kids get an early start in that financial education.
The CEEE partnered with West Park Elementary in Newark, DE to hold a personal finance family education night for West Park students, their siblings and parents on Nov. 17.
“We know that young children form their ideas about money as early as seven. Family nights give parents an opportunity to learn about ways to teach their children about money using a variety of activities. They leave the event with resources they can continue to use at home to reinforce important personal finance concepts,” said Bonnie Meszaros, CEEE Associate Director.
The event featured 12 different stations which included games designed to reinforce concepts like saving, spending, budgeting and banking. It was run by Linda Bacon, a fourth-grade teacher at West Park who is earning a master of arts in economics and entrepreneurship for educators at UD.
“Personal finance lessons can be taught to elementary school children and should continue all the way through 12th grade. Now there are related standards to which we’re to teach, but it’s hard to fit all those additional lessons in during the school day. So an after-school event like this is great way to introduce these concepts to both the students and their families,” Bacon said.
Earlier this fall Bacon attended a conference where one of the presenters talked about hosting a personal finance night at their own school, so she wanted to bring that idea to West Park as part of her degree requirements. CEEE, which has hosted similar events at other schools in the community, proved to be an invaluable resource.
“I knew there were programs out there that offered varied financial literacy education activities and I was planning to re-create those, but I contacted the center and they said we’ve done this in schools before and we’ve already developed all these great activities. So I met with Bonnie Meszaros and Administrative Specialist Jen Magaw to plan the event over the last few months. They helped plan and assemble the materials needed for the interactive stations,” Bacon noted.
The stations featured activities including filling out deposit slips, saving money for expenses like a trip to a national park or buying a pet, and sorting coins. Activities were grade-appropriate and perfect for the age of the West Park students, who run from kindergarten through fifth grade.
Students were also encouraged to take home children’s picture books and young reader literature. While not specifically written to instruct readers in personal finance or economics, the stories do illustrate important concepts such as choices, scarcity, and opportunity cost. These books were provided by the CEEE.
Both Bacon and West Park Academic Dean Nancy Ventresca stressed the importance of including the students’ families in the event. The children were able to take the projects with them to continue practicing the activities at home.
“It’s definitely important to understand these concepts. For example, if a family wants a new pet, both adults and kids need to understand all the expenses that are related to owning that pet, how much they need to save, and how the family will plan for that saving and expenditure,” Bacon explained. “After completing the activities, they’re then able to take those lessons with them so that the learning can continue at home. The whole family gets something out of it.”
“We’ve seen that kids need real experience and repeated practice with money and financial decision making for lessons to stick. Watching them estimate spending and saving has been pretty eye-opening to some parents. Events like this allow the kids to have some fun while learning practical skills and putting them to use,” Ventresca agreed.
“So this is really awesome to have a night for families and not just the kids. It’s nice to have families engaged with their students.”
Ventresca is grateful to work with CEEE on these types of events.
“We’re really lucky to be right near UD and we enjoy partnering with them,” she said. “I’ve known Bonnie Meszaros for a long time, and I’ve been involved with Lerner as a teacher too because I brought students to the CEEE’s Meaningful Economics events for about 14 years. I’m very acquainted with what they can offer teachers and our students.
The Meaningful Economics Competition is an annual event held each spring that invites students state-wide in grades three through five to compete in-person, testing their knowledge of economics, personal finance and entrepreneurship.
“It’s been great working with the Lerner staff because they supplied everything. We just provided the manpower and the space and the families,” said Ventresca, who noted that West Park has also partnered with UD in student mentoring programs and when nearby sorority members and Blue Hen football players have been guest readers at the school. “Being able to work with the center, it’s just a great opportunity. We love it.”