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Scenario

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Background/Context

While people in America today are earning more money then ever before, they are also being subjected to highly sophisticated efforts encouraging them to spend their money. Even with today's economic bounty, the huge variety of things available for consumers to purchase presents a temptation difficult for many to realistically handle. With earnings they often see as disposable income, and the lure of easy credit, many people fall prey to the consumer mentality that our society promotes. Saving plans are nonexistent, debt becomes a way of life, and sound financial planning is pushed aside to satisfy the immediate need for material gratification.

As citizens of this society, it is in our best interest to become informed, financially independent, consumers - not debt-ridden victims of each and every promotion that appeals to our emotions. In order to acquire this economic knowledge, it is necessary to consider several areas of the financial arena: short and long term budgeting, investing, credit, taxes, insurance, and financing. If one acquires a working knowledge of these financial subjects, they will have the means to avoid the pitfalls of the financially uninformed and become master of their financial future.


Beginning/Getting Started

Students will view a video called "Greed" (ABC News with Jon Stossel ). This news program investigates why humans are motivated by money. The video will act as a spring board for a class discussion on the value and importance of money in our everyday lives. In addition to the video, a variety of news clips from newspapers and periodicals about personal financial problems, disasters, and cautions will be distributed and discussed. Students will then be asked to speculate on how and why people find themselves in financial difficulty. Some simple scenarios will be suggested by the teacher for students to consider:

After these discussions have created some awareness in students of the pitfalls facing the financially unwary, the teacher explains the objectives of the unit:

Students will...

  • Plan monthly budgets and balance check books
  • Learn to establish credit and use credit cards responsibly
  • Compare cost-of-living in different U.S. and global areas
  • Compare mortgage to rent payments
  • Pay state and federal taxes
  • Research and compare types of insurance
  • Research projected savings and retirement needs
  • Plan investments and read stock 'results'
  • Learn to use the Internet, E-mail, PowerPoint, PageMill, and budget software(Quicken)

The teacher also announces that several local businesses have agreed to act as expert information resources through the medium of e-mail. These business people have also agreed to furnish prize monies to the students who best satisfy the objectives of the unit.

The class is excited about the possibility of prize money and listens attentively as the teacher offers some possibilities - individual work, pairs, team families - as to how the class might restructure itself for the semester's study of consumer economics. The teacher does emphasize the one prerequisite is that the class follow the priciples of 'engaged learning' they have been practicing during the school year. The class spends a few minutes discussing different possibilities for structuring their participation in the unit, and when a majority of them favor a 'team' approach, they vote to use that. After more discussion, and when the concept of competing teams and 'families' is understood, students become excited about choosing team members and deciding on the different roles and responsibilities they will have. There is a lot of discussion about who will be the best at what, and good-natured banter about who will be paired with whom to create the 'family' units. Students decide the teams will be formed with each group containing a 'family unit' and a financial research/advisory team. They begin to discuss individual roles more thoroughly and decide which team members will be responsible for the financial information that the 'family unit' will use to make decisions over the course of the next eighteen weeks. The teacher takes a few minutes to make sure each team member understands their responsibiliies - research, financial expert, technical expert, liaison with local experts - and that they know the primary team objective is to provide their 'family unit' with the best information possible to enable them to make sound financial decisions about all of the expenses their budgets should account for.

Once teams are established, the team members wait anxiously for their 'families' to be randomly assigned. As the teams learn whether they are going to function as a 'single', 'with roommate', or 'married couple', there are a variety of reactions, but all of the teams seem ready to work with their assignments. The day isn't complete yet, however, and families must now be assigned their salaries - the money the team and 'family' will survive on for the next three weeks. Again, there is excited discussion as the salaries are assigned and, in general, most students seem to feel their allocations are quite generous. There is an undercurrent of speculation about what can or can't be afforded, and "maybe we will be able to afford that new car". The teacher tempers some of the enthusiasm with a reminder about their budgets, and the fact that there are quite a few items that will have to be accounted for. The day concludes with directions from the teacher for each student to spend time before the next class session thinking about how the class is going to define financial success for this first three-week unit while satisfying the unit objectives: will everyone have to save money? Will each team be required to have information from an outside expert? Will Internet information be required? How about e-mail contacts? Will a balanced budget be necessary? The teacher asks them to consider these and other criteria they might think important. "Write down your thoughts and be prepared to discuss them in the next meeting. Class dismissed."

The next meeting students arrive, notes in hand, ready to discuss the criteria for financial success. As expected, there are a variety of opinions, and after a brainstorming session some consistent ideas emerge: each team that can balance their budget and save money should be rewarded; each team that accounts for all the elements of their budget should get points; there should be some reward for good research and use of information; and there should be points for using both text and electronic resources. Using the local experts (consultants) should be worth points. Someone asks about the presentations and shouldn't they be evaluated - for presentation and content? The class agrees that they should be. Finally, with guidance from the teacher, the class agrees to a list of common evaluation points, and at the teacher's suggestion, decides to arrange these in rubric form. The teacher explains that the rubric can serve to both guide the teams as they move through the project, and serve as the instrument for evaluating the final presentations. The class likes the idea of having a guide and self-assessment tool available to them as they work. They also agree that if this first project goes well, they would like to adopt the rubric tool for the remainder of the projects. The teacher volunteers to prepare the rubric and make it available on the unit web site. A careful review of goals, tasks, assignments, and deadlines clears up lingering questions and puts the assignment into perspective for the class. The teacher reminds them that they need to spend enough time with the Budget Bonanza web pages, especially those titled "overview" and "planning" to feel comfortable with the project and their team plans. They finish the day examining the teacher-prepared unit web site and getting answers to a few more questions.

For this first project, the teacher takes extra time to make sure individual students and teams are clear about their goals, that individual students are suited and capable for their assigned tasks, and that everyone stays on task. The teamwork and responsibility students learn in this first effort are vital for success in the projects to follow.

The next two weeks are spent learning financial vocabulary, investigating suggested web sites, making e-mail contacts with the financial experts who have agreed to help with the unit, and gathering and sorting information. The first class session of the third week is devoted to reviewing the elements of the budget software, PowerPoint presentation basics, and reminding students of the project goals - to be able to present a working budget for each of the first three months of the year based on the financial status they have been assigned, and to prepare a PowerPoint presentation that provides advice and information about purchasing and insuring an automobile.

The final meeting of the allotted project time has arrived and teams are ready with their presentations. The community experts have been invited to attend the presentations and are in the audience. Some student presenters are obviously nervous, and as usual, there is a minor glitch with a piece of equipment, but finally the presentations are finished and an audible sigh of relief passes through the room. Teams not presenting have been scoring their classmates with the agreed upon rubric, and after some clarifying discussion, submit these to the teacher for analysis. The final part of the period is spent discussing the rubrics and scores. Two presentations were obviously superior, and the teacher can see the other teams making notes and discussing the best features of these and the other presentations. There is already planning going on about what should be done differently for the next project and presentation.

 


Middle/In Progress

Timeline
 Week 1 Introduce unit and work on details of team makeup, roles, and responsibilities.
 Week 2,3,4 Jan.,Feb.,March budgets and research on auto insurance, ownership, and financing. First PowerPoint presentations.
 Week 5,6 April, May, June budgets and research state and federal tax forms. Second PowerPoint presentations.
 Week 7,8,9 July., Aug., June budgets and research rent payments, mortgage payments, and credit card debt. Third PowerPoint Presentations.
 Week 10,11,12 Oct.,Nov.,Dec. budgets and research saving, investing, and retirement. Final PowerPoint presentations. 
 Week 13,14,15 Preparation for Web Site presentations on financial responsibility and information. Students will prepare and post team web pages.
 Week 16,17 Presentation of web pages for judging. Teams can sign-up or draw for presentation times. 
 Week 18 Awards presented for winners in the various catagories. Winning presentations viewed by all participants and judges. 

At the conclusion of each multi-week project the team with the best financial planning evidence, as presented in their budget software and project PowerPoint presentation, will be awarded a savings bond donated from a community business.


End/Culmination

The team that has throughout the unit best met the previously student and teacher established objectives of 'financial success' as reflected by the rubrics for budgets and projects will be awarded their unit prize. The award will be based on rubric points accumulated by the 12 monthly budget presentations and the 4 project PowerPoint presentations. At the conclusion of the unit, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes will be presented to the teams whose WWW financial site best reflects the established objectives as reflected in the rubrics on web page creation and consumer information. The site will be a multi-media resource on important financial information and considerations for the novice consumer. A jury of the participating community financial experts will judge the WWW financial site. The class will post a notice and link on the District school web site about the availability of the winning 'financial advice' web site. An article will also be submitted to the local newspaper explaining the unit, the available winning web site, the various winners, and also name those community businesses who participated and donated prizes.

Page Links

PreLInC

Summary

Student Pages

Rubric

Project Index


Created for the Fermilab LInC program sponsored by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Education Office and Friends of Fermilab, and funded by United States Department of Energy, Illinois State Board of Education, North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium which is operated by North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL), and the National Science Foundation.

Author(s): Skip Schmidt (sschmidt@portup.com) Lisa Bianchi (lbianchi@portup.com)
School: LaSalle High School - St. Ignace, Michigan
Created: April 15, 1999 - Updated: April 28, 1999
URL: http://www-ed.fnal.gov/lincon/w99/projects/budgetls/scenario.html