Alamo 5th graders are getting a hands-on lesson in budgeting and economics through their monthly Open Market. Students open their own market, or join forces with classmates, to sell products. But before the market opens, they have to do what all adults do - pay the bills! They earn paychecks throughout the month, and have to pay rent (for their desk) and utilities (their locker). They then have the freedom with what’s leftover.
“I think the kids have learned to budget, and think about what the future holds,” says 5th grade teacher Mrs. Breese. “I have some who live for the thrill of the hunt and buy, buy, buy! I have others who are biding their time and saving for retirement (day off from schoolwork in May). Regardless, they all know that rent and bills come first.”
Ms. Eshbaugh also sees the kids really learning to budget, while better understanding how to increase sales. “They are becoming more strategic by creating advertisements for their items, as well as by focusing on which kinds of items will sell well. Overall, they are learning a lot about supply and demand as well as what will attract their customers,” Eshbaugh says.
Kids say that candy is the hot seller, and kids will pay top dollar for it; but the market includes a wide variety of products. From handmade items, to ones from home, to those purchased. “I love to see all the creative services and products the kids come up with. Because it is cold, one student made hand warmers to sell, another student realized that advertising their products the week before got kids talking and she sold out of the goods (slime),” explains Breese. Students have had salon services (nail art), photo studios, bookstores, toy shops, jewelry counters, carnival games, and of course, food. Some are even doing raffles now, which has been another big seller.
The Open Market mimics real life, mostly coinciding with the beginning of the month. The teachers say they can see the adjustments from month to month.
“Many kids are joining forces now, and it is wonderful to see how well they work together and how they are making sure to split their profits. From month to month, I am noticing that the kids are becoming more creative with the items they are selling. They’re also more aware of pricing now and are selling their precious products for more money,” Eshbaugh says.
One twist in all of this is the option to save for retirement. While many are excited to spend all their money, others are spending with a frugal mind. After the final Open Market of the year, the top three savers can retire, earning them a day free of schoolwork.