As a teenager who wants and needs money, I got a summer job. It had never occurred to me that some of our youngest Cougars at Collegiate could also have the opportunity to earn “money,” purchase goods, and learn about the economy.
In Mrs. Katie Musick’s third grade classroom, each student has the opportunity to spend and earn play money and make real life economic decisions.
Musick started the Classroom Economy to “apply real world situations to the economic vocabulary that [the students] were already learning.” Her goal is for her students to “live and experience the economic terms that they are studying.”
Students earn money by fulfilling various classroom occupations, such as table washer, sweeper, messenger, greeter, and secretary. In order to get a job, a student has to fill out an application. If a student’s performance in a job is lacking, the student will be dismissed from that position. Students also can earn money on their birthday or half-birthday, for a clean desk inspection, and for having a perfect test score. Students are paid weekly on Friday, with their pay in a range of $10-$20, depending on his or her job. Once a month, students can spend their hard-earned money at the Class Market, where they can purchase homemade goods from their classmates. The students learn the value of purchasing an item and the experience of earning money by selling items. “The Classroom Economy is where you apply and get paid jobs” says Bella G. (‘26).
But the students are also faced with the responsibility of managing their money. On the first school day of every month, each student is charged $100 rent for his or her desk. Each student has the option to “buy” his or her desk for $300 and be rent-free for the year. Students can also buy other desks and charge rent to that individual as well. If a student is not able to pay rent, the student’s wages and bonus earnings are garnished until the debt is payed off. Students can also be fined for various reasons, such as behaving rudely or having incomplete homework. On April 15th, students are expected to pay taxes, just like any other individuals in the U.S; only the tax bill is $40 for each of Musick’s students.
As with any new program, Musick said there were a few kinks to be worked out with the class market in the beginning. A major hurdle to overcome was food and baked goods that were being sold. Having various allergies and restrictions made selling baked goods difficult. Since the Class Market is student-run, Musick was concerned that parents were baking treats for the children to sell, and student involvement was lacking in the process. Musick encourages her students to only sell items that they make themselves. She wants her students to use recycled materials if possible, and to “keep it simple and to focus on being the producer of goods.” A former student of Musick, Katie C. (‘24) describes the Marketplace as “The highlight of third grade.”
Musick says that there has been an incredible amount of positive feedback from the parents. “They love seeing their children learn these economic concepts in a real-world way.” Musick reminds her students that, “It is a game, not a competition. We will do [our] best, and it is a way of learning economic concepts over the course of the whole year.”
All photos by Duncan Owen.