“How do you earn money?” asks Ella Ka‘u to her class of 1st and 2nd grade students.
“When you go the store and they give you money back,” responds a 6-year-old boy.
Ka‘u, a summer school teacher at Mid-Pacific Institute, smiles at the response, but uses the dialogue as a starting point to teach her students the value of money in a class called, “Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees.”
The five-week course meets daily for two hours. According to Ka‘u, the intent has always been for the class to be inquiry driven, that is, students’ questions, prior knowledge and experiences drive the curriculum. Through the hands-on class, students develop concepts, products and marketing plans for a mini-sale and a big sale of items such as handmade bracelets and baked goods during the last week of summer school to benefit a non-profit organization.
The course has been taught for more than 10 years in the school’s summer program, beginning when Mid-Pacific’s elementary school was Epiphany School.
“It was the brainchild of a teacher who wanted to teach math skills — money and measurement — in a meaningful, engaging way,” says Mid-Pac Elementary School principal Edna Hussey. “Understanding how a business works is a part of the curriculum; the other is understanding how businesses can support other members of the larger community, which is why students learn about nonprofits and the needs these organizations have.”
Children also learn math skills since they need to estimate needed resources, determine costs for items in order to make a profit, and count change during the sales.
Ka‘u teaches two classes — one combining grades 1 and 2; and the other made up of grades 3 and 4.
“Collaborative skills are also necessary when working in groups,” adds Hussey. “Because the class is multi-age, with two different grade levels, older and younger student learn together, just as the ‘real’ world functions with different age employees working together.”
Photo: Courtesy Pat Bigold