WTOP: Crash course in money matters for second-graders

 Students are Woodlin Elementary School got a chance to become financial wizards with Junior Achievement. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

Students are Woodlin Elementary School got a chance to become financial wizards with Junior Achievement. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Woodlin Elementary School is home of the Woodlin Wizards, and on Friday, the kids got a chance to become financial wizards. Volunteers with Junior Achievement, the nonprofit that focuses on entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy, joined students for a daylong crash course in money management.

In one second-grade classroom, educational consultant Jeff Allum helped kids navigate lessons in how money moves through a community. Everyone was assigned roles, from business owner to government worker, and Allum explained how, when a business could be affected by an event such as a burglary or fire, it might require the services of a fire department or the police.

 Second-graders got a lesson in economics at Woodlin Elementary School Friday. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

Second-graders got a lesson in economics at Woodlin Elementary School Friday. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

That’s when he introduced the concept of taxes, which was fine, until the kids found that they had to pay taxes from the pretend money they were given. “So, I need two dollars,” said Allum, wearing a sticker designating him as a tax collector. Shrieks of protest broke out, and again, Allum listed some of the things in a community that taxes provide.

Outside the classroom, Allum explained that all the lessons from Junior Achievement are age-appropriate, and help students think about their futures and how to tackle everything from student debt to a possible future as a business owner.

Allum said that at the elementary level, many of the concepts are brand-new, but in middle schools he finds that kids have a range of experiences in relation to money. “It’s surprising how much they know about insurance and rent and mortgages,” he said, but then there are other kids who don’t have much background in financial education. That’s where Junior Achievement comes in.

Especially in a time when many students will graduate facing student debt, financial education, particularly regarding debt, is important. “Debt has been a big part as who we are as a society and as a country,” Allum said, and while some debt can be good, “because it’s often done through mortgages and credit cards, it’s kind of invisible.”

Financial literacy is not part of Maryland’s mandated state curriculum, but some school systems, including Montgomery County, find ways to introduce money management into classes as early as the elementary level.