Dear Readers: What do dinosaurs and virtual reality have to do with financial education? A lot, according to teachers who responded to the most recent financial education Innovation Challenge sponsored by the Charles Schwab Foundation in partnership with DonorsChoose. The challenge asked entrepreneurial K-12 teachers to come up with innovative ideas to bring financial concepts to life in their classrooms. And innovate they did!
More than 1,000 ideas were submitted — ranging from creating a dinosaur-themed money and number game for K-2 students to having middle schoolers budget for and take virtual reality field trips around the world right from their own classroom. Top projects were chosen by a panel of financial literacy experts and funded with support from the Charles Schwab Foundation. These projects were made available to teachers across the country in the form of lesson plans, all available through DonorsChoose. The result is a treasure trove of financial education ideas created by teachers for teachers.
Why This Is So Important — and Encouraging
As a parent and a finance professional, I can't think of a better way to start off the new school year than with a focus on financial education. Recent research shows that while 92% of K-12 educators nationwide believe financial education should be taught in schools, only 12% include it in their classrooms. The reasons range from the lack of materials to not feeling qualified to teach the subject.
That's why the work done by DonorsChoose is so crucial. Working with citizen and corporate donors, they not only fund special projects and supplies but also teacher training, to enhance and enrich the standard curriculum — not just in financial education but in all subject matters. The current stats from DonorsChoose demonstrate how they're succeeding.
Since its inception in 2000:
— 83% of public schools in America have posted a project on the DonorsChoose.org website.
— 3.9 million citizen donors have contributed.
— $864 million in classroom funding has been raised by a combination of citizen donors and corporate/foundation partners.
— 35 million students have been reached.
How Teachers Have Responded
Statistics aside, I'm so supportive of our partnership with DonorsChoose because of the feedback we receive from teachers. Schwab hosted our first matching program on the DonorsChoose website in the spring of 2017, and since that time, we have held fall back-to-school and spring campaigns each year. Without fail, the feedback from teachers has been positive and consistent.
According to a survey last year, less than half of teachers reported feeling confident about teaching financial literacy. After they received financial education materials through the program, that number went up to 95%. Not only that, 98% said they plan to continue teaching financial literacy. That's music to my ears!
Ways You Can Help
One of the great things about DonorsChoose is that while it's nationwide, it's also very local and personal. You can actually go to the website, enter your ZIP code and find local schools' teacher requests to support. You can zero in on specific topics such as financial literacy and even look for projects that have matching corporate funding.
The financial literacy projects included in the Innovation Challenge go a step further by providing both teachers and parents access to the ideas and lesson plans. Just go to DonorsChoose.org to see the projects being featured. If you see one you like, you have a couple of choices. Right now, you can:
— Encourage your kids' teachers to take a look at the ideas and incorporate them in their own classrooms.
— Consider how you might introduce some of the ideas to your own kids at home.
You can also make a donation to any qualifying financial literacy project, and for a limited time, the Charles Schwab Foundation will match contributions dollar for dollar, up to a total of $100,000.
Financial Literacy Is an Ongoing Challenge
With only 19 states currently requiring high school students to take a course in personal finance, today's young adults are far from equipped to handle modern financial challenges — including mounting student debt. But we don't have to wait until high school to help our kids get comfortable with financial concepts.
Parents as well as teachers can begin to creatively get kids involved in thinking about money early on. But it's not just about piquing their interest; it's about building solid financial skills at a young age. That way, our kids can begin the process of becoming informed, financially capable adults. And that's a legacy that can continue for generations.
Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, Certified Financial Planner, is president of the Charles Schwab Foundation and author of "The Charles Schwab Guide to Finances After Fifty." Read more at http://schwab.com/book. You can email Carrie at [email protected] The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax, legal or investment planning advice. To find out more about Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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Photo credit: stevepb at Pixabay