Hayden Valley Elementary School first-grader Whittney Lighthizer is saving her allowance, the money she gets for her birthday (a dollar for each year) and change she finds.
She wants to buy something.
“I don’t know if my mom will get me it,” she said. “I’ve been wanting this mini go-cart that looks like a jeep or a car or something. That’s what I’m saving up to buy.”
Whittney and the other students in Lori Hornstein’s first-grade class at the elementary school heard a presentation Tuesday about saving money from Traci Day, bank manager for the Hayden office of First National Bank of the Rockies.
Students in Christine Epp’s first-grade class also heard the presentation Thursday. It was part of a series about financial literacy that Day has given the kindergartners and first-graders. She has discussed with the students where money is found, what it’s used for, counting money, saving money and earning interest.
Day also is giving presentations to second- through fifth-graders as part of her educational efforts. The lessons get more complicated the older the students are, Day said. For example, she’ll discuss inflation and deflation with the older students.
All the materials for the presentations are provided by the American Bankers Association, which encourages banks to provide financial education in local schools, Day said. It’s the third year she’s been giving the presentations at the elementary school.
Day said it was important to start teaching children early about saving money.
“It’s really easy to see how poor money choices have affected the economy,” she said. “When you start teaching them about making smart choices, it only grows from there.”
On Tuesday, Day demonstrated how money could grow by giving students a penny and having them drop it into a green piggy bank as she walked around the class. The students also counted the number of pennies as each one was added to the piggy bank.
The students also completed a coloring exercise. They were given worksheets with the outline of a jar that included one penny. Day asked the students to draw more money into the jar to demonstrate how it can add up if saved.
Then Day asked the students if they wanted free money. They said yes. She walked around the classroom and drew a penny on the students’ worksheet to symbolize the interest that could be earned by saving money.
Day encouraged the students to fill their own piggy banks and ask their parents to open savings accounts for them. She said if they put the money from their piggy banks into an account, they could start saving all over again.
Most of the students said they were saving money for something. Kyler Campbell wants a dirt bike. Wyatt Murphy said he’s saving to buy clothes. Isabella Osborn wants to buy a new dress.
Many of the students also realized that it’s also important to save for things you need and not just want.
“The things you need are the most important things,” Andrew Kleckler said. “Like food and stuff that helps you learn, like books.”
Other students agreed.
“Food is better than toys,” Keaton Knez said. “You can’t live on toys.”
Day said the goal of the program was for the teachers to incorporate financial education into their curriculum.
Hornstein said the students soon would be receiving points for good behavior and completing assignments. At the end of each week, they will receive a paycheck based on those points. The students will keep track of what they earn in a check register and will have the opportunity to buy things from the classroom store.
The classroom store includes items that students might need, such as crayons, pencils, glue, folders or books, Hornstein said. If the students don’t need anything, she said they could buy things they want, such as toys and candy.
“Some things in the store will be very expensive, so they’ll have to save their money,” Hornstein said.