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Gulf Elementary students learn about economics, stock market

By Staff | Oct 16, 2009

Fifth-grade gifted students at Gulf Elementary received an intimate lesson on economics Thursday morning from a local State Farm agent.
Tonya Edison, a State Farm agent from North Fort Myers, helped launch the Economic Outreach Program at the school by educating the students on managing their finances. The students have also engaged in a 10-week online program called the Stock Market Game, www.stockmarketgame.com.
Edison discussed a number of topics including saving money, interest rates and using cash versus credit cards.
“You have to be disciplined and have to watch it,” she said. “Most people have an average of $7,500 on their credit card. It gets you in trouble real fast.”
Edison also tried to explain to the children how best to invest their money and asked whether they preferred to be risky with stocks or more safe with a certificate of deposit.
Patricia Calamela’s fifth-grade class split into seven groups for the Stock Market Game. They started with $100,000 in their portfolio and competed against 302 Southwest Florida teams using their researched and purchased stocks.
“Our goal is to make more money, to double or triple our portfolios,” said Liz Olancin, gifted teacher for first through fifth grade.
Most of the Gulf Elementary teams placed in the top 50 of all teams in the region, including one team that placed fourth out of 302.
Megan Warren, a student in Calamela’s class, said the game was very interesting.
Thursday morning her team gathered around a copy of the Wall Street Journal to see how their stocks were doing. They bought a number of shares in Hess and Brazil TelePort.
With their new earnings they chose to purchase more stocks and reinvest in the market.
“Each week Ms. Olancin comes on Thursday and we do the stock market,” she said. “We are going to keep doing it.”
Olancin said her students have been learning about the stock market for 20 years. First, they learn the history of the market, how it crashed in 1929 and 2008, and then how to participate in the modern market.
Students learn all of the terminology and are required to bring the Wall Street Journal to class.
“We have seven teams, they all compete against other elementary, middle and high school teams,” said Olancin. “It is a computer program linked to the University of South Florida.”
Teams learn to work together and form a consensus like one corporation, she said. At the end of the competition, the top brokers receive a medal of recognition.
“They love it, especially when they get their results,” said Olancin.
Joe Dion, a field sales associate for State Farm, said the insurance company is a major sponsor of the stock market challenge.
He said the company gives community service to its employees to go into schools and teach children about finances and the stock market.
“As you can see, it is a very basic presentation,” Dion said.