Managing an investment portfolio, calculating net income, building a nest egg for college and developing a family budget may seem advanced to eighth-grade students. But the importance of these challenges has life-long consequences; and it’s not too soon to face them.
That’s why Milwaukee Public Schools and Junior Achievement of Wisconsin have combined resources for an innovative learning experience, teaching the basics and benefits of personal finance to more than 5,000 teenagers this year in more than 120 MPS elementary and middle schools.
The announcement comes two and a half weeks after a report from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission found that even those Americans investing in financial markets have a “weak grasp” of basic financial concepts.
Details of the program, called JA Finance Park Learning Journey, was presented Tuesday by Dr. Gregory Thornton, Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent and Tim Greinert, President of Junior Achievement of Wisconsin at a demonstration at JA Finance Park at the JA Kohl’s Education Center, 11111 W. Liberty Dr., Milwaukee. The JA Kohl’s Education Center was created by many local supporters. Kohl’s made the largest donation of $3 million over three years through the Kohl’s Cares® program. Eighth-grade students from MPS’ Burdick School will attend and participate in the program.
The comprehensive program will introduce personal finance and career exploration to all MPS 8th grade students. It includes a combination of classroom presentations, resource materials and day-long participation in a fully interactive, simulated town at JA Finance Park. In this environment students receive family and income scenarios then visit 19 businesses to purchase things like insurance, clothing, food, transportation and real estate.
All aspects of the program are designed to advance students’ knowledge, skills, attitude and achievement in areas of personal finance. In the Learning Journey process, students are exposed to banking, budgeting, obtaining credit, paying taxes and making investment decisions.
“It’s a real world experience in a real-world environment. The combination of presentations, materials and the use of JA Finance Park create a real-life interactive learning experience, one that will enlighten and enrich our students and lead to practical decision making,” Dr. Thornton said.
He added the desired outcome is for students to be more interested and aware of the choices and considerations they are facing now and in the future. It will also give the students an appreciation for the economic situations and realities faced by their parents and grandparents each and every day.
Greinert said the significance of the subject matter and the number of students that will be exposed to it are positive developments that effectively blend education and experience.
“It will introduce personal finance and career exploration to a substantial number of teens and pre-teens. The subject matter needs to be presented, realized, experienced and reinforced both inside and outside the classroom. The students will create a budget, allocate expenses and make personal investments. They become the sole providers for a family and must accommodate the family needs without overspending,” Greinert said.
Adding to the collaborative nature of the JA Finance Park Learning Journey, it will draw upon the expertise and experiences of participating educators, volunteers, Junior Achievement of Wisconsin staff and the students themselves. Educators will assist student learning at the JA Kohl’s Education Center, preparing students before the day and summarizing the experience through post-visit activities.
The JA Finance Park Learning Journey is a three-year partnership between Junior Achievement of Wisconsin and MPS. The program is correlated to Common Core Standards and Wisconsin Model Academic Standards. It represents an extension and expansion of MPS’ Learning Journey concept of collaborative classroom, corporate and community teaching programs. MPS Learning Journeys combine standards-based classroom instruction for students with real-world learning.
MPS is developing a common set of field-based enrichment experiences, specific to each grade and aligned to grade level standards and curricula in the core subjects. The Learning Journeys connect learning in the classroom with the greater community where students have the chance to have hands-on learning experiences, engage their senses and imagination and experience beyond their neighborhoods. The partnership with Junior Achievement of Wisconsin marks MPS’ second Learning Journey following last year’s announcement of a Discovery World partnership for all fourth-graders.