JA Finance Park® in the classroom
Before students travel to JA Finance Park®, they take part in JA’s unique 14-lesson classroom curriculum, split into four main categories, taught by their teacher. This knowledge serves as a foundation in personal finance education and gives them the skills they need to take on their JA Finance Park® experience with everything they need to be successful.
Students recognize the role of financial institutions and the various services they provide. Through case study, games, graphing, and other group activities, students understand the advantages of saving, investing, and using credit wisely.
- Lesson One: Plan Your Future
Students will make the distinction between abilities, aptitudes, interests, work preferences, and values. They will explore various sources of income, including salaries and wages, interest, and business profit.
- Lesson Two: Careers
Students identify their career interests and goals as a way to earn future income. They set a career goal they will revisit at the end of the program.
- Lesson Three: Taxes and My Income
Students learn the three main sources of government's tax on income and determine net monthly income by deducting federal income tax, Social Security, and Medicare deductions.
SAVING, INVESTING, AND RISK MANAGEMENT
Students explore saving and compare investments as a part of their overall financial planning. They also examine risk and how insurance may help protect savings.
- Lesson One: Saving and Investing
Students are introduced to various short- and long-term saving and investment options such as savings accounts, stocks, and mutual funds.
- Lesson Two: Managing Risk
Students recognize that insurance policies are a common way to minimize risk for accidents and unforeseen circumstances.
DEBIT AND CREDIT
Students compare financial institutions and their services. Through discussion and a game activity they also weigh the advantages and disadvantages of debit and credit. Lastly, students examine the role of credit scores and credit reporting have on personal finances.
- Lesson One: Banking Partners
Students identify the types of financial institutions and the services they provide.
- Lesson Two: Personal Spending
Students become aware of the advantages and disadvantages of debit and credit cards.
- Lesson Three: Savvy Shopping
Students participate in the Savvy Shopper game and see first-hand the costs and benefits of debit and credit.
- Lesson Four: Managing Credit
Students explore credit reports and credit scores, discover why they are important, and learn how to build good credit.
Students discover the importance of spending money wisely and recognize a budget as a valuable tool. They create personal budgets based on saving and lifestyle goals and day-to-day situations.
- Lesson One: Think Before You Spend
Students define what good money management is and why it is important. They discuss how setting financial goals and being an informed consumer will help them better manage their money.
- Lesson Two: What is a Budget?
Students identify the components of a successful budget.
- Lesson Three: Who Uses a Budget?
Students practice budgeting and learn how this tool can help them responsibly manage their daily finances.
The Culminating Experience: JA Finance Park®
Students' experience culminates at JA Finance Park®, where these young people have the opportunity to put their newly-learned skills to the test in this digital, 21st century, innovative learning environment. The "mini-city" houses a variety of storefronts and kiosks, correlating to the personal budget lines each student must manage during their JA Finance Park® visit.
As these young people enter the doors of Finance Park, they leave behind their lives as middle school students and take on a life scenario: an avatar with a career, salary, credit score, debt, a family, and financial obligations. On tablet computers, students make their way through various phases of the day:
Set Up & Savings
During the first phase of the day after an initial welcome, students watch a career presentation and answer lifestyle questions about their hopes for their financial futures. Volunteers lead small group discussions on students' assigned life scenarios, including income, job title and educational background, marital status, if they have children, existing savings and debt, and credit score. Students calculate their net monthly income and learn about setting a monthly savings goal. Students then allocate that savings to three saving funds.
During the Research phase, in small groups, students visit each storefront and kiosk at JA Finance Park® and engage in a discussion with volunteer role models on the various budget items contained within JA Finance Park®. Utilizing provided discussion questions, volunteers initiate group discussion with students about their research discoveries and share personal experiences and suggestions about budgeting.
During the JA Finance Park® Budget phase, students build a monthly budget on their tablet computers, informed by their research and volunteer-led discussion. They allocate 100% of their household net monthly income during this phase and record their financial plan in the software.
Students make shopping selections in their home storefront, getting a better understanding of what their personal tastes and preferences actually cost. As they choose a home, clothes, furniture, car, and other purchases, they discover how close they came to budgeting accurately, based on their wants and needs. Students may spend more than they budgeted, but are forced to account for any budgeting discrepancies by spending less in another area.
Payment & Checkout
During the Payment & Checkout phase of the JA Finance Park® experience, students pay for all their shopping selections, using a debit card or by making an online payment from their banking account.
Guided by adult volunteer role models, the simulation helps students grasp the implications of their "financial decisions" as they work towards a balanced budget by the end of their visit, and allows these young people to experience the challenges of making real-life financial decisions that will lay the foundation for how they approach their financial responsibilities in the future.
Students reflect on their experience, sharing some of the lessons they learned, on the blackboard at JA Finance Park® Fairfax County. Click to enlarge.