Financial Literacy for Kids
Alison Graham

Do you talk to your children about financial planning? Elementary school might seem early but financial and educational experts agree that an early start to a financial education will lay the foundation for healthy money habits and contribute to greater financial confidence and informed decision-making skills later in life. We’ve been talking to our students about financial literacy and they have been participating in hands-on learning to help them understand some of the main financial literacy concepts at a developmentally appropriate level.

At Grade 2, the BC Ministry of Education outlines content learning objectives for financial literacy that include: counting money, an introduction to the concepts of spending and saving, and role playing financial transactions. Our Grade 2 students planned, created products to sell, and ran an entire market that they shared with the community. I attended the event and was very impressed with the level of dedication and professionalism displayed by each student. After spending more time with some Grade 2 students, I learned that not only did they do a very authentic job of role playing financial transactions, including making change for all of their customers, they also learned a lot about supply and demand, including price adjustments. They also felt that hard work rewarded them with better financial results and that donating money to an important cause can feel really good.

At Grade 4, the financial literacy curriculum focuses on making simple financial decisions involving earning, spending, saving and giving. Our Grade 4 classes have been using a classroom economy system throughout the school year. In Grade 4, every student applies for and receives a job where they earn a monthly salary. They also have basic expenses, such as monthly locker rental fees and electricity bills, and opportunities to purchase things they want (i.e. small toys, art supplies, etc.) through an auction system. Through their interactions, the Grade 4 students have developed a sophisticated understanding of what it means to budget, balance saving and spending and needs and wants, as well as manage debt. 

In Grade 6, learning expectations outline that students should be able to do some simple budgeting and make informed decisions on saving and purchasing. Our Grade 6 students planned a weekly dinner menu using a predetermined budget amount. They were very engaged in this learning experience, particularly in the saving aspect, and learned a lot about price shopping or bargain hunting for items at various stores. Another takeaway was the realization or acknowledgment of the amount of time that planning and shopping for meals actually takes. They also shared that shopping within a budget is very difficult, especially now with the continual rise in food prices; however, having a budget is important so you do not overbuy which is also a great way to cut down on food waste. In their reflections, most students expressed gratitude for being in a situation where their families can easily shop for healthy food.

I love having the opportunity to discuss learning with students and this time two things really stood out for me. The first, was the deep level of conceptual understanding that students demonstrated through real-life application of what it means to be financially literate. Secondly, and most importantly, I really appreciated that students at each grade level shared a learning takeaway that showed thoughtfulness and caring for others. Our Grade 2 students kindly donated all of their earnings to the World Wildlife Fund because they wanted to help animals. Our Grade 4 students identified that the best part of the classroom economy was that everyone is able to make a contribution which leads to a more positive classroom environment, and our Grade 6 students expressed gratitude for having parents who spend a lot of time taking very good care of them. Our students are living out what it means to have a strong mind and a good heart.

Contributed by Alison Graham, Junior School Vice Principal, Learning