Getting an Early Start on Financial Literacy Pays Off

Teaching about finance begins in kindergarten at this public K-8 school on the South Side of Chicago, with the goal of helping students develop the critical decision-making skills that will guide them later in life. More to this story.

Teaching about finance begins in kindergarten at this public K-8 school on the South Side of Chicago, with the goal of helping students develop the critical decision-making skills that will guide them later in life. More to this story.

Release Date: 3/28/12

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Getting an Early Start on Financial Literacy Pays Off (Transcript)

David: One of the biggest challenges that schools everywhere face is engaging their students in the education process. Making school relevant. Making school matter to the kids and their families. We're always looking for a school that's nailed that challenge. In this month's, "Schools that Work," installment, we go to the Ariel Community Academy on the Southside of Chicago. Where with a student population of modest means, they've seized on the vehicle of financial literacy to engage the students and engage their families, teaching kids about money. Teaching them about family economy. Teaching them about the critical decision-making that's required to secure your future, secure the future of your family. And to break the cycle of poverty. The results at Ariel have been impressive, 97 percent of the students are graduating from high school; 65 percent are matriculating into college. We hope this installment of "Schools that Work" will be an inspiration to you, and help you think about the kinds of changes you can make to better engage your students.

Lennette: Critical thinking is what every school teaches, or hopes to teach, or attempts to teach. But the thinking is not just enough. You've got to have action. And I think financial literacy is the best venue for that, because what's more global than money?

Regina: This is a Title 1 school, so we have lots of kids who are living at or below the poverty line. These are average kids who have the absolute ability to learn and to understand finance and economics, because it's couched in a way that relates to their everyday life and relates to decisions that they are actually making, or will have to make in the future.

Lennette: Financial literacy is a body of knowledge. Investing or entrepreneurship are the subjects.

Regina: So we have four main components of the curriculum. First grade is personal finance. Second grade is a combination of economics and personal finance, and third grade is about monetary policy and what money is and how does money work. Well, starting in fourth grade, it's a lot more fluid. We want teachers to be able to pick and choose. And so instead of teaching specifically to the test, we strive to make everything relevant. Ariel students typically score much better in math and better in reading.

Judith: The curriculum needs to be deep. It needs to be encompassing. The point of student success is for students to understand that with every single classroom that they participate in, it is directly connected to their own life goals.

Regina: So our investments class today, we're going to talk about spending our money. What did we do last investments class? Who can think back and remember? what were we spending our money on? What were we doing?

Student: Carnival things.

Regina: Yeah, things at the carnival!

Regina: The kids really respond well to seeing other children making decisions in literature that we read. So either watching a video or reading a book is a great way to get them invested.

Regina: Listen to this story carefully. Let's think, is this about planned spending? Someone thought about it carefully? Or is this about unplanned spending? They just saw it and they bought it. "Penny ran to her room to get some money from her savings bank." When she put money in that bank, what is that called? When she was saving up all her money, she put the money into the bank? Shanard?

Shanard: Deposit.

Regina: Yeah, she was depositing her money. "Mom was going to get paper towels, plant food and a book about flowers for Miss Kim's birthday present. Penny added a notebook to mom's shopping list." A.J., Penny's mom made a shopping list just like your parents did.

Regina: This is super important for all children. It's very important for the kids that we teach. Low-income children have fewer chances. they already have the deck stacked against them. And oftentimes, they are not the ones who are getting the opportunity to network, to meet people, and to take charge of their lives, so that they can graduate high school and either find a job or go on to higher education.

Regina: These kids are on a track to go to excellent high schools, and to be accepted into college. And we give them the tools, and hopefully they take that, feel inspired, and plan their life the way that they want to live.

Lennette: What we really want kids to get, to believe in themselves, to know, "I can do this." And that, "Yes, I'm going to think critically. I'm going to come up with a good game plan." You know, it's not just thinking, you have to do it. You have to be active.


  • Director: Zachary Fink
  • Producer: Mariko Nobori
  • Editor: Daniel Jarvis
  • Associate Producer / Assistant Editor: Douglas Keely
  • Camera: Zachary Fink
  • Production Assistant: Christopher McAlister
  • Graphic Design: Maili Holiman
  • Video Programming Producer: Amy Erin Borovoy
  • Executive Producer: David Markus

© 2012 | The George Lucas Educational Foundation | All rights reserved.

© 2012 | The George Lucas Educational Foundation | All Rights Reserved

Comments (3)

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Toronto District School Board Elementary Teacher

Financial Literacy ... what a concept

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Ouch! How inspiring and important to teach to children. A must to see.

Senior Manager of Video Programming, Production, & Curation at Edutopia

Try on YouTube

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Hi - I think the video isn't working? Or is me?

Hi Julia!

Sorry to hear you're having trouble with the video. It seems to be playing with no issues for me. Try updating your version of Flash, sometimes that can cause problems.

We also have it posted on YouTube here: Getting an Early Start on Financial Literacy Pays Off, you should be able to watch it there.


Director, Strategic Resourcing and Programs at Tiger Woods Foundation

Hi - I think the video isnt

Was this helpful?

Hi - I think the video isnt working? Or is me?

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