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Social Studies/Government/Economics...with cross-curricular opportunities in Math, Life Skills, , Business, Technology.

Grade Level:

This particular project is designed for 12th grade students. They are the group most likely to feel the need for such an activity, given their impending graduation into the 'real' world. (The unit could be 'edited' for other grades)


Students will participate in a semester unit on financial planning that will emphasize the use of electronic resources for both information gathering and presentation purposes. This unit will be taught as the economics component of a 12th grade government class. Students will be grouped in collaborative, heterogeneous teams, and will study practical life-skills activities in economics that will help them become better informed consumers and financial planners. Students will be involved in simultaneous projects: first, they will work with budget software to track, evaluate, and accommodate realistic daily expenses which might affect their budgeting decisions. They will work as 'family units' exposed to all the fates and tribulations of the real world. Part of their challenge will be to survive these 'life-experiences' through sound financial planning. They will learn to balance budgets, initiate a savings and investment plan, and practice sound consumer behavior. Second, they will be responsible for researching and presenting specific financial information on a variety of everyday economic topics. For both projects, students will use the Internet, e-mail, and budget software to investigate financial activities, consult with out-of-school experts, analyze spending habits, and evaluate their financial decisions. All financial activities will be based on real-world prices and economic models.

This project will teach the skills, vocabulary, and concepts of personal economics in a 'hands-on' authentic manner that is not as intimidating to students as the traditional 'textbook' approach. Student teams will be challenged to work together to solve the economic problems consumers are regularly faced with...credit, insurance, investing, and budgeting. They will prepare realistic budgets that reflect their current and long term economic status, and create informative presentations that will help their fellow consumers make sound economic decisions. Local businesses will serve as expert information resources, and will also provide rewards in the form of savings bonds to those teams who best satisfy the stated objectives of the unit.

The unit will contain interdisciplinary links to courses in Life Skills...budget and tax preparation, Math...numerical analysis, Business...budgeting and planning, and Technology...Internet use and electronic presentation software.

Learner Description/Environment:

This particular project is designed for 12th grade students. They are the group most likely to feel the need for such an activity, given their impending graduation into the 'real' world. Senior students in the St. Ignace Area School District have a particular need for such information. Because employment in our area is seasonal, with unusually high unemployment during several months of the year, and because most students work during the summer months earning considerable income, the necessity for sound financial information and skills is real. Many of our student are personally responsible for their school-related expenses...clothing, activities, graduation expenses, and money for continuing education. Their summer earnings become more than discretionary income, and money management skills will have a real-life benefit for a significant number of them.

Our high school is small, as is the community, and school/community ties are frequent and valuable. The involvement of community businesses in this unit will continue to foster this school/community relationship. Students should benefit through contact with community business people who have to deal with financial responsibility on a day-to-day basis, and the business community should benefit by contact with potential employees and insight into the school curriculum.

Time Frame:

1 semester (18 weeks). Each Friday,s class will be devoted to work specifically on the 'Budget Bonanza' unit. Students should understand that additional out-of-class time will be required to properly research their topics and prepare for their presentations.

Learner Outcomes:

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)

Structure of the Learning:

Authentic Student Task...

This activity will involve students in the study of practical life-skills activities in economics that all students will need no matter what they do or where they go after high school. They will investigate the necessity of sound financial planning. Students will be assigned 'adult' roles and given the necessary tools to locate and access relevant information from a variety of electronic sources including the Internet, the WWW, e-mail, and community experts. All financial activities will be based on real-world scenarios, prices, taxes, and fees. Students will spend class time researching and preparing for a sequence of presentations that will demonstrate their ability to plan and make informed, practical economic decisions involving their everyday lives. They will keep track of and present their financial decisions electronically throughout the activity. In addition, they will prepare multimedia presentations of guidelines, rules, and lessons which their research has led them to believe are important for financial discipline and success in their daily activities.

Best Use of Technology:

Students in this project will research, consult, analyze, evaluate, record, and present information about spending, investing, and budgeting. They will use the computer and presentation hardware, the internet (the World Wide Web and e-mail) and appropriate software applications (presentation, investment, and budgeting software) to assist them. Students will use carefully selected WWW links for research and to collect data, and e-mail to contact community experts for information. They will prepare several multimedia presentations demonstrating their proficiency with newly acquired skills and the objectives of the unit.


Students will be assessed by demonstrating with budgeting software, PowerPoint presentations, and web page creation the ability to balance their budgets and explain financial choices. Using the information they acquire through their research, they will explain the reasoning for their various decisions, and demonstrate their expertise to the class with multimedia presentations at specified times during the unit. These project presentations will be assessed by teachers, professional experts, and fellow students using rubrics designed for the specific components of the unit. Teams best satisfying the objectives of each multi-week project task as defined by the project rubric will be awarded savings bonds donated by community businesses. The teams with the final presentations best satisfying that project rubric will be awarded savings bonds .

Project Evaluation:

A pre-assessment survey will be administered at the beginning of the course to provide baseline data and to help make students aware of specific areas of need. At the conclusion of the unit, students will complete a teacher prepared survey posted on the unit website that will ask them to evaluate and rate the various projects and activities of the unit. A similar evaluation survey will be distributed to the community members who participated in the unit.

Alignment with Standards:

This project fulfills the first content standard in Economics for the State of Michigan..."Individual & Household Choices". Once the project is completed the students will have a better understanding of how multiple factors can influence budgets. This information will assist the students with understanding the other standards that deal with business, government, and international economic decisions.

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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