Pink Floyd said it – Money, it’s a gas. Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash. The problem is Pink Floyd’s Money is just a song; in the real world, money needs earned and then managed properly by budgeting.
That’s what a recent Big Walnut Middle School eighth grade Social Studies module was all about – a Real Money in the Real World simulation.
Real Money, Real World is a free program that’s part of The Ohio State University Extension, 4-H and Youth Development. The concept includes four classroom lessons prior to a real world simulation. During the lessons students studied earnings as impacted by withholding and payroll deductions, checking and savings accounts, and cost-of-living information.
Students then chose an occupation with a monthly gross salary for that occupation, followed by a spending simulation to learn basic money management concepts. They deducted taxes, FICA, health care insurance, money for retirement, and savings.
For the simulation, each student becomes a hypothetical 28-year-old with a generic spouse named Chris. Chris works part-time, earning $400 per month, while attending school full-time. The student receives no additional financial support from extended family or other sources.
During the hour-long simulation, held in the Big Walnut Middle School Learning Center (a.k.a. Library), students traveled through a series of stations where they spent their family’s net salary on needs and wants – housing, transportation, insurance, utilities, food, clothing, entertainment child care, communications, contributions, credit, and the big one that comes along when least expected, chance.
During their journey through the stations, students monitored their finances by logging activities on a checkbook register, deducting each expense from their checkbook balance. For some of the students the simulation was an eye-opener. Partway through the simulation stations reality hit home — out of money with monthly expenses still in front of them, it was time to readjust the family budget.
Big Walnut Middle School principal Josh Frame said the Real Money, Real World module, experienced by all of Kelly Robinson’s, Patricia Thompson’s, and Joseph Backs’ eighth grade Social Studies classes, helps students understand the real world they will enter in the not-too-distant future.
“We’re looking at the bigger picture, helping these students appreciate all they have and what those things cost in the real world,” Frame said. “Next year they’ll be participating in the high school process, making early decisions about what they will do with the rest of their lives. We want them to explore their passions and strengths as they make career decisions, and at the same time consider the long-term economic importance of those decisions as they transition into the adult world.”
The simulation was followed by in-class reflection and an opportunity for students to analyze their experiences during the simulation, and share their individual experiences with their peers, Frame said, making it more likely that they would apply what they learned in real-life situations.
Frame said the district’s College & Career Readiness Coordinator Penny Sturtevant assisted in organizing the OSU Extension’s Real Money, Real World program at the middle school. Sturtevant said the program helps students understand the importance of choosing a post-secondary destination.
“A simulation like this suggests career clusters,” Sturtevant said. “As they travel through the stations it helps students estimate and understand the income potential of career choices by taking them from gross income to net income; and it helps them make financial decisions based on monthly income.”
Sturtevant said 30 volunteers helped monitor the simulation’s stations. She also said that Big Walnut hopes to expand the Real Money, Real World program in the future.
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.