Visiting the Money Bus: Students learn about handling finances through lessons, hands-on practice

March 26 2008

TERRE HAUTE -- After receiving a $100 paycheck, Luke Metzger embarked upon the culmination of six weeks of finance lessons -- the Money Bus.

“I think it’s really fun because I really like math and I like money. When I handle money, I like to know that I can control myself and I don’t just let my parents do it,” said the DeVaney Elementary School fifth-grader about the financial lessons.

That was part of the plan that combined Indiana State University’s Student Mathematical After-School Thinking program (SMART program) at DeVaney with the Networks Financial Institute Kids Count on the Money Bus through the efforts of several people including Deborah Flurkey, ISU liaison for Money Bus/SMART program; Kathy Spelman, DeVaney school liaison for Money Bus/SMART and Paul Utterback, DeVaney school liaison for Money Bus.

“A life without money is just as miserable as a life without reading,” said Sandy Brigando, a Networks financial literacy coordinator. “Money is very important. The basics, the foundation needs to be laid early so the children can maintain it and build upon it.”

Marylin Leinenbach, SMART program director, described combining the two programs as very worthwhile with 16 pre-service teachers gaining experience and giving back to the community.

“The more experience we can give pre-service teachers in working with children, the better teachers they will be,” she said. “We really believe, in my department, in giving back to the community and this was another way that we could do that. We gave of our services in order to bring financial literacy into the children’s lives.”

Also, teacher education and financial services are part of Indiana State’s Program of Distinction as part of an initiative funded in part by the Lilly Endowment to recognize ISU's most prominent programs.

During six weeks of afterschool classes, the pre-service teachers divided the fourth- and fifth-grade students to teach them about debt, credit, banking accounts and handling money. Along the way, some of the college students learned lessons as well.

“With the checking account, I do balance it, but most of the time whenever I would go to the bank I would leave it up to the teller to write up the deposit slip,” said Katie Hill, a senior elementary and special education major from Clinton. “I learned exactly how to fill out a deposit slip and to give it to the teller.”

Most of all, according to the pre-service teachers, it gave them confidence for when they enter their own classrooms.

“It’s kind of intimidating when you first think of the whole concept, but after working with the students and all of the material, getting the hands-on opportunity, I gained a lot of confidence,” said Sierra Lang, a junior elementary and special education major from Terre Haute.

“They remember and they catch on and it just flows and they grow,”said Lauren Chaney, a senior elementary and special education major from Chrisman, Ill.

At the end of the six weeks of lessons, the college students acted as bank tellers, ticket sellers and game hosts for the elementary students’ afternoon at the Money Bus.

As part of their lessons, the elementary students chose what they could do to earn $100. Then on the day the Money Bus arrived, Brigando presented each child with a paycheck. The child filled out a deposit slip, visited the cashier at the bank, received play “cash” back along with a debit card that can be used on the bus.

“This is their actual hands-on experience when they get to come out and experience everything we’ve been talking about because they’ve created a budget, set their short-term and long-term goals and now they actually get to exercise all of those things,” Lang said.

After entering the Money Bus, the children must try to keep to their budgets as they play various video games, which quiz and teach them about financial literacy. At the photo booth, the children must decide how much they want to spend upon their picture. A visit to the concession stand shows children that as items are added to a pizza or ice cream, the price goes up.

Ashton Ingalsbe, a fifth-grader at DeVaney, stayed within her budget and managed to save $3 while playing on the bus.

“You save your money for what you want and you don’t always need ‘wants.’ You try to get what you need,” Ingalsbe said as what she learned and wanted to share with other students.

Metzger said it made him feel good to stay within his budget.

“I learned that even though you have money that you can spend, you don’t have to spend it,” he said.

That is the point, according to Brigando.

“We live in a blessed society today and we’re all very grateful of that. One of the things about living in a blessed society is that our children are not able to distinguish between something they want and need,” she said. “A wealth-building skill is being able to control your wants and take care of your needs, so that’s part of the process of learning to build wealth and manage wealth. We also teach community giving and part of that is one of the games we have aboard the bus, which is our donation station.”

Those lessons also are being carried home, Christi Fenton, DeVaney Elementary principal, said. She then told about a student going shopping with his mother.

“I was talking to his mother and she said ‘What did you do to my son' We went shopping this weekend and he told me not to do any impulse buying,’ and so they’re learning those things,” Fenton said.

Those lessons could become even more important as the years pass.

“This is not something you really get at home,” said Stephanie Allen, a junior elementary education and special education major from Richmond. “I think as a child you think your parents just have money and spend the money and you don’t really know the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ until you are thrown into it. I think it’s a good thing to let them know and maybe these kids won’t have any credit problems or anything like that.”

Credit is a growing problem for college students, Brigando said, as they graduate and are filing for bankruptcy because of credit card debt, not from student loans.

“One of the things happening in our education system today is that our best and brightest, who are heading out college bound, when they’re in high school they’re not taking consumer math, they’re not taking general business math. They’re taking higher-level courses,” she said. “By doing that, they’re leaving our care with little or no financial training for the real world that’s coming at them. This is one road into the school system in order to start preparing our children for financial growth and financial freedom.”

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Contact: Marylin Leinenbach, Indiana State University, SMART Program director, 812-237-2847 or at mleinenbach@indstate.edu

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, assistant director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or at jsicking@indstate.edu

Photo: http://ISUphoto.smugmug.com/photos/261898003_ykyFg-D.jpg

Cutline: Luke Metzger, 11, fills out his check to pay for his entry onto the Money Bus at DeVaney Elementary School. ISU Photo/ Kara Berchem

Photo: http://ISUphoto.smugmug.com/photos/261897532_agy8q-D.jpg

Cutline: Ashton Ingalsbe, 11, plays a game onboard the Money Bus at DeVaney Elementary School. ISU Photo/ Kara Berchem

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Story Highlights

A plan combined Indiana State University's Student Mathematical After-School Thinking program (SMART program) at DeVaney with the Networks Financial Institute Kids Count on the Money Bus to teach fourth and fifth graders about financial literacy.

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