School News

An enriching education in District 30


How would like to have $100,000 to invest in the stock market? About 50 sixth-graders in District 30 did, and they learned what it takes to make smart investments.

The students weren’t playing with real money, they were taking part in the Stock Market Game, sponsored by the Sifma Foundation. Some of the children made some wise choices and probably wish they had been playing with real money, while others were glad they won’t be one the hook for the thousands they’ve lost.

The Stock Market Game was the first of three after-school enrichment opportunities the district is offering this year for its oldest students. It is part of the 21st Century Learning Award program, and students have a chance to earn a bronze, silver or gold award with their elementary school diploma in June.

Financial literacy was the first unit, and students were busy trading stocks from October through last week. They worked with Ilissa Epstein, the teacher for Quest, which is the enrichment program offered during the school day. Epstein made herself available one day after school every week at each of the three schools to help the children with their investments, and was always answering their emails at night and on weekends.

On Dec. 20, all participating students were invited to the Shaw Avenue auditorium after school to meet with Kevin Hughes, a financial advisor with Morgan Stanley. Hughes was a big hit with the children — in teaching them how time is money, he gave each a crisp $1 bill just for being there.

Hughes explained how he built his career, and asked the students what they want to be in the future. Answers included architect, doctor, computer scientist, veterinarian, teacher and even CEO of a Hollywood movie studio. He said that they will face setbacks in life, but that should never deter them from achieving their goals. “If you love it, and you believe in yourself, go our there and get it,” he said.

He taught the students what stocks and bonds are, how to look at a stock quote and about the differences between private and public companies. Hughes also explained that a company’s ultimate goal is to be the dominant business in its respective market.

With the financial literacy program over, students can now take part in a three-month program on global awareness. The final unit will be civic literacy.

Gerard Poole, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum, said he would like every sixth-grader to participate in at least one unit, which means they could earn a bronze award at graduation. It is one of the district’s Strategic Plan goals to offer more enrichment opportunities for students outside of the normal school day, and the hope is to expand the program to younger students next year.

Poole said the enrichment program is modeled after a high school program and tailored to fit District 30’s needs and available resources. He also explained that by expanding after-school opportunities, it prepares students for junior high and high school when they have a wealth of extra-curricular activities to choose from.

Epstein said she was encouraged by the amount of participation in the Stock Market game — nearly half of the district’s sixth-graders. “In order to stand out, they’re gong to have to go the extra mile,” she said. “They can’t just do what’s expected of them.”

Through the enrichment program, students will learn to work both independently and in teams, and have to complete additional assignments beyond their normal school work.

Epstein said all three topics being offered this year enhance and build upon what children are already learning in school, and teach practical lessons that they can use later in life. “It’s important for students to understand the world around them,” Epstein said.