Students becoming teachers during Money Fair
It can be difficult to keep a student’s interest in class, let alone get them to explore a topic on their own time. However, it seems that Milwaukee’s Money Fair — part of Talk With Our Kids About Money Day (TWOKAM) — has achieved just that. TWOKAM was created by BMO Financial Group in partnership with The Canadian Foundation for Economic Education. Recently, the organization was honored with the Governor’s Financial Literacy Award for its work in Wisconsin, where fewer than half of parents are optimistic about the financial future of their children.
Held at the Business and Economic Academy Milwaukee (BEAM) in mid-April, the aim of Money Fair is to empower young people to learn more about money. Students are encouraged to research certain financial topics in an after-school program and then make a presentation to a judging panel at Money Fair. LaDonna Leazer, an elementary school teacher and coordinator at BEAM, has involved her students in the program for the past two years. We had the chance to sit down with her to get her thoughts on how it has helped kids improve their financial knowledge, and here’s what she had to say.
As a teacher, what makes this program an important one?
Our school is located in an urban community where the majority of students get a free or reduced lunch. We are not in a wealthy neighborhood. Many of these students are high risk, poverty-stricken students, but this program can benefit all of them. They have a desire to learn about topics that they can take back to their real world. Not all students are at the same level, or in the same grade, but this after-school program differentiates their learning to keep them interested. Some students work on topics as high level as supply and demand, whereas others take a deep dive into more specific topics like Payday Loans.
What are your goals for this program and what habits do you want to instill into your students?
Last year was the first year for us. This year, our numbers have almost doubled. I want to grow this program so it can include more kids and more staff members. This is not a mandatory program, but it’s exciting to see so many kids who want to be involved and put in the extra time to complete a project. This program appears to be building up habits in the students; they have a desire to learn. For example, two young boys were trying to pick a project and decided on studying GDP. Multiple teachers told them how complicated this topic was, but they were so determined to not only study and learn about it, but to be able to teach it at the Money Fair.
Can you give any examples of how your students are succeeding with the program?
Ninety percent of the students who participated last year are back for the second year. They are diving into more complicated topics and are continuing to drive their own learning. Last year we learned that while they may know the topic, they didn’t have many presentation skills. They have since learned that they have to engage the judges and try to be creative when presenting to keep their audience involved. They have gone from dry presenters to spending time after school working on different presentation skills, public speaking and even creativity by making their presentation boards brighter. For me, the students who come after school to work on their projects are students who "get it". They understand the extra effort they must put in not only to stay in the program, but also to keep up with their peers.
What are the reasons why you think it’s successful?
The students actually get to come up with their own topics (within the financial realm), but this program doesn’t just teach the kids about those topics. They must go off and research it on their own (granted we are there if they have any questions or don’t understand something). In a way, they must be able to teach that topic back to us. If you can run through a lesson and they are able to take it in at their level and teach it back to you, it shows us that they are internalizing the material. I find this method is a better way to engage the students — it shows me that they are truly learning.
Looking to further your own financial knowledge? We can help! Check out Your Financial Life for guidance and tools on everything from buying a home to saving for an emergency fund to managing your small business’ cash flow.