ST. PARIS – With the help of many community volunteers who staffed 16 business booths, and four various life skills activity booths, eighth graders from Graham Middle School participated in a “Real Money. Real World.” simulation. Students researched a potential career that they are interested in and were given children and a spouse. Each student visited the various booths making spending choices based on their family situation hoping they would have enough money to make ends meet at the end of the month.
The program includes four classroom lessons to prepare students to assume the role of a 27-year-old adult who is the primary income provider for a family. They received an occupation, monthly salary, and the number of children they are raising. Students learned to subtract savings, taxes, and other deductions from their monthly income. The amount of money left over is what they spent during the simulation activity. Students spent their money at booths staffed by community volunteers on items typically found in a monthly budget including housing, utilities, groceries, insurance, childcare, and transportation. Throughout the activity, students kept track of their finances and attempted to complete the simulation with a positive balance.
The program is a product of The Ohio State University and was organized for the community by Kiley Horn, Extension Program Assistant in collaboration with Miriam Helman at Graham Middle School.
One of the biggest surprises to the students is always the cost of childcare. One youth, who came into the simulation with only an $1,800 monthly salary and two children, was discouraged to discover at the childcare booth that day care for his two children would be over $880! This led the student to the Financial Advice booth to discuss ways to decrease his spending, potentially obtaining a second job, and discovering his family’s eligibility for any government assistance. With these tools, he was successfully able to finish the task at hand with money left over.
The students thoroughly enjoyed their experience but were shocked at how hard it was to meet a monthly budget. Many had newfound respect for their parents and what they deal with on a daily basis. At the end of the experience, student comments included, “Kids are expensive,” “I am not asking my parents for anything else anymore,” “I had to get a second job and I’m still broke,” and, my personal favorite, “What do you mean I can’t end the month in the negative?”
In addition to the “Real Money. Real World.” simulation, the students also participated in four other life skills activities. One such activity was Kitchen Adventures, where the students were taught to make a one skillet meal with Champaign County FCS Educator, Kellie Lemly. Additionally, members of the Johnson St. Paris (JSP) Joint Fire District were on hand to discuss the importance of smoke detectors (how and when to change their batteries) and basic kitchen first aid for minor burns and cuts. A second activity was all about vegetable gardening. The students learned about vegetables and planted their own seed in an ice cream cone to take home with them with Champaign County 4-H Educator, Melinda Ryan and Master Gardener Volunteer, Marsha Hess. In the third activity, the students were tasked with making a small window box to place their seed starter in until it is ready to plant with Champaign County AGNR Educator, Amanda Douridas. In the final activity the students were given pieces of dry wall to mend nail holes and to tape of designs with painter’s tape. OSU Professor, Integrated Pest Management Program Coordinator, Jim Jasinski led this activity.
Programs like this cannot happen without significant community support. Our community partners include St. Paris Public Library, Christiansburg Community Library, Erin Patton State Farm Insurance, Nancy Martin Erie Insurance, Hempy Water, Designing Kids 4-H Club, The Champaign County Master Gardeners, Clark County Extension, KTH Parts Industries, Graham Middle School Staff and Parents, K Family Concessions, Steve Hess, The Jess Family, The Moses Family, The Horn Family, The Ryan Family, The Nott Family, and the Helman Family.
For more information about the “Real Money. Real World.” program, please contact Kiley Horn at the Champaign County Extension office.