Students Learn About Money

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Think back to the fourth grade. Did you know what after-tax income was? How about fixed expenses? Well, those are now familiar concepts to kids at Cottonwood Creek Elementary School in Englewood. Their teacher, Cindy Loehr, got a grant this year to teach dollars and cents. So did two dozen other educators in the state. The grants come from Great-West, a financial services company in Denver. CPR’s Andrea Dukakis takes us to Mrs. Loehr’s classroom. Ryan Warner also speaks to the head of Great West's program Christina Climaco, who says Colorado recently set new state standards for financial literacy.

Here's a transcript of Andrea Dukakis' report:

Andrea Dukakis: When Mrs. Loehr found out she had $5,000 to teach kids about money, her first thought was pets.

Cindy Loehr: Because every child wants a pet.

Reporter: She figured fourth graders at Cottonwood Creek could decide on some pets to buy, then manage the costs of taking care of them. Eventually, the kids came to a consensus: reptiles.

Loehr: We’ve purchased a bearded dragon, ball python snake, crested geckos...

Reporter: And, of course, there were supplies to purchase.

Loehr: Things like heating pads, lights, covers for aquariums.

Reporter: The class also bought iPads to keep track of everything. Fourth grader Max Garman says they scanned all their receipts and made a spreadsheet.

Max Garman: And it adds up all the money that you spend and we’ve tried to figure out how much money we have left.

Reporter: And Max knows to the penny what they have left.

Garman: $1,185 and 65 cents.

Sarah Lane: And that won’t last us the whole year, we have to raise money so we have enough to feed the animals.

Reporter: Interjecting there is Sarah Lane--Max’s business partner. Mrs. Loehr says once she’s gotten the kids' attention with the pets, it’s easier to talk about what grownups have to manage when it comes to money. So, the class moves on from heating pads for lizards to things like home heating bills. Fourth graders Harrison Webb, Ryan Flora and Seth Burd use their iPad to decide what they would do if they were in their parents’ shoes.

Harrison Webb, Ryan Flora and Seth Burd: $15 a week in gas, $16 for phone bill, $70 for car insurance. The rest of your money is yours to spend as you wish. Spend wisely.

Reporter: Sometimes, it moves beyond the nitty-gritty, and bigger philosophical questions come up in class. One kid asks why can’t things just be free?

Loehr and students: What would happen if everything were free? Our stores would be empty. All of our resources would die out.

Reporter: Talking about these concepts has gotten kids, like Isalina Colsman, thinking about the future.

Isalina Colsman: Cause then when we’re grown up, then we can’t mess up our whole money and lose everything so you can’t buy a house or something like that.

That's CPR reporter Andrea Dukakis, now click the listen button to hear Ryan Warner's conversation with Christian Clamaco of Great West about new grants for teachers to help kids learn about managing money.