George Lucas Educational Foundation

Kids Invest in Funds -- and Their Own Future

At Chicago's Ariel Community Academy, students in grades K-8 hone math skills and learn practical, lifelong lessons in finance by managing a $20,000 class stock portfolio. 
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Share

Kids Invest in Funds -- and Their Own Future (Transcript)

Connie Moran: Our goal today is to figure out if we are going to buy, sell or hold the security that we've already purchased in the portfolio.

Narrator: Many teachers use fictional stock portfolios to help students hone math skills.

Connie Moran: You bought Disney at thirty-five dollars and fourteen cents. Where is it now?

Narrator: But at the Ariel Community Academy on Chicago's South Side, students have a vested interest in learning because they're risking real money.

Connie Moran: What are our options?

Narrator: Lots of it.

Student: I say hold because this one went up a dollar and now it may go up even more in another period of time.

Narrator: Each Ariel class receives an endowment of 20,000 dollars which they begin to actively manage in sixth grade.

James: I'll say hold it because you sell it right now all you're doing is making basically like a dollar profit.

Narrator: When they graduate eighth grade the class donates half of their profits to charity. Each student receives an equal share of the remaining profits, usually just over 100 dollars to invest on their own.

James: The money I make with investments, I will put that towards some the college tuition and all that because I know that's very expensive, laptops, books, classes.

Narrator: This unique public school private business partnership was created by financier John Rogers.

John W. Rogers: What would be the reason to buy a stock after it's going down a lot like that?

Narrator: And Chicago's schools' Chief, Arne Duncan.

Arne Duncan: Ariel was how I got my start in public education. I ran John Rogers' nonprofit the Ariel Foundation for about six years starting in 1992. And in 1995 we were young and dumb enough to think that we could create a great public school.

Student: So let the stock grow and then you can sell it and make more money.

John W. Rogers: We think by exposing our African American boys and girls to the stock market at an early age it's really helping to enhance their math skills.

Narrator: Ariel's test scores have soared over the past five years with 88 percent of the students exceeding state standards in math.

John W. Rogers: If you think about it, if you're picking stocks or having to understand about growth rates and percentage growth rates year over year and quarter by quarter there's just so much math involved. And so I think it's just natural for our kids to be doing so well now that they've been exposed to the markets over a long period of time.

Mariah Sheriff: Can someone tell me what's their decision?

Narrator: Exposure to the financial literacy curriculum starts in kindergarten and echoes across every subject in every grade.

Student: It would have an opportunity cost to go to circusland or buy a new TV.

Mariah Sheriff: Very good, can you say that big, big word you just used again?

Student: Opportunity cost.

Mariah Sheriff: Opportunity cost and that's what we have when we have a decision to make, right?

Teachers always look for the real world application of their curriculum and I don’t ever have to do that. It's never a search for why this is going to apply? It's just a matter of making it so engaging that they will take it home and talk about it.

And what is it called when you put money in your bank?

Everybody: Deposit.

Mariah Sheriff: I'm going to teach personal finance. I'm going to teach investments and in seventh grade we talk about international trade and we talk about foreign exchange market and how that's a thriving market that our kids might be involved in.

Student: One of the negatives is that they probably have some more competition.

Connie Moran: They're just not regurgitating a set of vocabulary words. They actually are looking out into their community and trying to understand their place in it and processing that information.

James: Yeah, plus they global because they got Hong Kong Disney, they got California Disneyland.

Connie Moran: There are some students in the classroom that are saying "You know I want to be an entrepreneur one day."

Humu: Before I took this class I said I wanted to be a doctor. Then I wanted to be a nurse, then I wanted to be this, a brain surgeon, but since, after a while I see that this is my favorite class. I like picking stocks and working for myself so instead of working for somebody else I would like to be an entrepreneur.

Raven: And my business is called Bling Things. I put rhinestones on accessories and electronics.

Narrator: As a culminating activity eighth graders apply what they've learned about marketing, income projections, and other aspects of creating a business by writing and presenting business plans.

Student: My market segment was we target the 70 percent of gamers who request professional aid when gaming. Our target customer was any gamer holding a vested interest in mastering the games they owned.

Teacher: Okay now both plans are pretty good. But the end all of both business plans must be the return on investments.

Judith K. Shelton: This curriculum is not just about investing. It's also about a long-term partnership on the part of a company in the immediate lives of children and families.

Woman: So how was your day today, guys?

Student: Good.

Judith K. Shelton: There are values of that company that children themselves have seen: the idea of honest enterprise, the idea of looking for an opportunity to change and benefit one's self.

Matthew Yale: Ariel is a very unique place to work. We have people who really are committed to more than just their day-to-day jobs. Employees are here at the building tutoring, planning the garden, any type of project that needs to be done so we have between 20 and 25 employees who are helping out in the school.

What stock did you pick? I forgot.

Student: I picked Sony.

Matthew Yale: Yeah, why?

Student: Because I looked at Sony's competitor which was [Inaudible].

Matthew Yale: Okay.

It's an extraordinary opportunity to really be making a difference in the public education system.

John W. Rogers: So you want to walk on through now.

Narrator: At the end of the year Ariel students visited the corporate headquarters of McDonalds to mingle with other shareholders and executives at the company's annual meeting.

John W. Rogers: And without further ado, Don Thompson, President of McDonalds, U.S.A.

Every year we try to have one of the [inaudible] African American executives come in and talk with the kids and hopefully be a role model for the kind of successful business people they can emulate.

Don Thompson: When I was your age, I didn't even know what a stock was. Let alone to be able to get some education and begin to understand business. And so I'm impressed with what you all do. I hope you know that what you are doing is very special. I wanted to take a couple of minutes to open it up, answer any questions you have you could ask me.

Student: Do you pick stocks? If so, what type?

Don Thompson: First of all, I'm jealous, see. I don't have nearly the knowledge you all have about the market. I don't study it the same way you do.

This kind of education sets them up for the business world. It sets them up for international ventures. It helps them become more rounded and they create aspirations within themselves to do something so great that many of us could never even imagine it.

Student: Was it hard to become what you are now?

Don Thompson: Is it hard? It's only as hard as you make it if you're not focused on today. Be focused on being the best you can today. Everything else takes care of itself.

Narrator: For more information on what works in public education go to

Get Video
Embed Code Embed Help

You are welcome to embed this video, download it for personal use, or use it in a presentation for a conference, class, workshop, or free online course, so long as a prominent credit or link back to Edutopia is included. If you'd like more detailed information about Edutopia's allowed usages, please see the Licenses section of our Terms of Use.


Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis

Associate Producer:

  • Amy Erin Borovoy


  • Karen Sutherland

Camera Crew:

  • Rob Weller
  • Bennett Spencer


  • Kris Welch

Original Music:

  • Ed Bogas

Additional Footage Courtesy of

  • Ariel Capital Management

Schools That Work: Financial Literacy

Learn more about Ariel's financial literacy program in the full Schools That Work package where you'll find a 2012 video and article update, free resources, and research findings on the effective strategies used at Ariel.

Editor's Note: Since this video was filmed, Arne Duncan, former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, has moved on to become the U.S. secretary of education under President Obama. Matthew Yale is now Duncan's deputy chief of staff.

Comments (16) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Andrew's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

According to the video, the class of approximately 15 people receives $100 each. That is some $1500 they made themselves already, and that is half of their total profit which would approximately be $3000

what if ten schools had this?
15,000 dollars of donations to charity

What if thousand schools had this?
$1,500,000 dollars of donation purely created by students.

Is it hard to teach something like this in AP Econ? World would be such a better place.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This seems like a wonderful program for all students. I was distressed to hear that the Ariel representative say it was for African-American students. Imagine if a white businessman ran this program and said that it was for white students! This is unacceptable.

Tim Lang's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

As a person who has always advocated for stock market competitions and learning in our public schools, I was pleased to see this program working for the Chicago City Schools. I was however, dismayed at the comment by John Rogers stating that this was a program for African Americans. Why must it be limited to racial/ethnic specific groups?

Nadine Aroyo's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

We are very interested in hearing more about your efforts to bring financial literacy to children, and help them be aware and secure their futures.

We are OINK! the Business Newspaper for Kids, primarily aimed at 7 to 12 year olds. OINK! is pink, like the Financial Times, full of money matters for kids and is distributed FREE each month upon request to schools, libraries, children's hospitals and sports clubs across the United Kingdom.

Over the past four years we have built a steady reputation of bringing information about money and commerce to kids in a fun, creative and highly stylised way. The newspaper's content is cutting edge, ground breaking and often thought provoking, and has won recognition from the National Literacy Trust and the Schools Library Association as an important literacy and learning tool.

Amongst our many supporters, we are pleased to include the Bank of England, the London Stock Exchange, the Financial Times, ICICI Bank, Capital Disney, FUN radio, SEGA, Hamleys, SONY, Bandai.

We produce a daily radio show, OINK! ON AIR, which is broadcast on

We have recently introduced the Piggybank(r) Fantasy Stock Exchange(tm) which provides kids with a fantastic opportunity to learn all about stocks and shares and play the stock market absolutely free.

Below please find a link to our websites.

Stock Market Investment Research's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I wish I would have had an experience like that. Learning to invest is important. It is good for children to understand that they can make money with out really having a job. Passive income streams ought to be taught more.

Megan Marshall's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Wow, wouldn't that be interesting? This project seems like an amazing opportunity for students to see how they can invest their earnings in a very real and personal way. Teachers always wonder whether the experiences and information provided in a classroom is applied later in life. The true success of this program would be to find that these students practiced the investing techniques that they practiced so diligently in school.

Lisa Liverman's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This would be a great experience for any student. Middle schoolers would learn the value of money and planning for the future.

Natascha Cox's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I did something like this in high school but we did not have real money. It was set up as a competition to see what group could earn the most and I believe it helped me understand the stock market very well. It was also fun and therefore held my attention...isn't that what we are going for?

Nicole Ferro's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I remember doing something very similar when I took economics in high school. We did not use real money, and it was a very short term project. The updated way the Ariel Community Academy is approaching this same project is amazing. I was impressed to hear the students' comments on business and earnings. What a truly authentic way to teach not only math skills, but also life skills. Don Thompson said it best when he commented that the students were able to, "create aspirations within themselves . . .". I can't imagine a better lesson to learn.

Ken Ellis's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

[quote]This seems like a wonderful program for all students. I was distressed to hear that the Ariel representative say it was for African-American students. Imagine if a white businessman ran this program and said that it was for white students! This is unacceptable.[/quote]

What Mr. Rogers said was,"We think that by exposing our African-American boys and girls to the stock market at an early age, we can really enhance their math skills." The Ariel School population is 99% African-American.
I imagine that if there were other magnanimous business leaders from other ethnic backgrounds willing donate substantial sums to schools in their communities, the Ariel curriculum would work for them as well.

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.