A group of 9- and 10-year-olds was recently observed purchasing stuffed animals, ice cream, trading cards, sweets and knickknacks of all kinds. No, this was not a typical Saturday at Stratford Square Mall. It was Janice Musacchio's fourth-grade class at District 93's Elsie Johnson School, where some of the youngest entrepreneurs ever seen sold goods to classmates and teachers to learn valuable financial lessons.
As the class began working with decimals by using play money to make imaginary purchases, the students asked Ms. Musacchio if they could bring in their own items and create a classroom mall to buy and sell goods.
Musacchio took this as a teachable moment and ran with it. She allowed the students to make a mall but made sure that they and their parents understood that whatever they brought in was fair game to be purchased by other students (while still using play money).
Creating and taping posters to desk fronts to act as store fronts, and working together -- some students were "owners" while others were put on the owners' imaginary payroll -- students learned about making deposits to or withdrawals from accounts while still working on those decimals to make change and keep a running tab of expenses. They also learned lessons in supply and demand, adjusting prices with their products' growing or declining popularity.
"When someone buys something from me, I put that in the deposit [column]," said Noah Jennings, owner and proprietor of Noah's Card Shop. "When I buy something, I write down what it is and put it in the withdrawal [column]. It helps to keep track of things."
The next time any of these students head over to Stratford Square Mall, they might just have a new perspective on all of the factors going on behind the scenes that lead to their purchase.