The RisingTigers Project (the Project) is designed for continuous improvement to move from a traditional teaching mode to one that helps students relate to why they learn specific information. Who has not asked: "Why do I need to learn this?" What so often is missing is relevancy. Educational research studies (citations available) confirm:
-Integrating several disciplines has numerous benefits. Among them more individualized learning opportunities, better student engagement, growth of a better brain through challenging problem solving, multiple intelligence and higher order thinking skills.
-Curriculum relevancy improves student outcomes on both academic and affective measures.
-Financial education makes a difference as it empowers and equips young people with the knowledge, skills and confidence to take charge of their lives and build a more secure future for themselves and their families.
-Standards based instruction and curriculum must be presented as early as possible in the elementary grades in order for the public's financial investment to bring forth the greatest value
Based on 3 years of pilot program experience
and supported by the above research, the Project chose a model that is collaborative, continuous, transparent for the user and sustainable. The target users are teachers and educational systems that provide education to our youngest learners (Grades K-5) in order that firm foundations become habits of the mind and in turn provide excellent measures of security, happiness and comfort in the long run.
This Project collaborates with financial institutions and planners to bring excitement and fun to the classrooms while teaching concepts. In the photo above, the children were taught the concepts of save, share and spend. Letters were sent home to parents asking them to find paying jobs for their youngsters. Children then brought their earnings to school, and deposited it into their tri-section banks. They were taught to save at least 10% and pay themselves first. As they learned the uses of money to rent/pay for housing, food and clothing (wants and needs), they also were taught how important it was also to share. Pets was the unit of study so the students discussed and decided how to share their "share" portion of the money. In the end, the students agreed to combine all their "share" money and paid a visit to the Humane Society where a check was delivered. By the very virtue of sharing, these students have added to their box of wellness.
While there are numerous programs that address financial literacy for students of all ages, in our research we did not find another program that uniquely weds both economics and financial literacy specifically to our target group. We believe RisingTigers model results in the best cost for value. The photos below captures one of the final extemporaneous presentation assessments where students reached into the 'fishbowl' filled with topics and spoke to what they learned (without any prior preparation.)
The Project in in it's 4th year working with teachers. There have been many challenges:
1. Change from a fully supportive administration in the pilot program to one that has a different perspective and direction. The prior administrator not only encouraged his teachers participation, he found ways for them to reschedule, and provided resources.
2. The Project's limited human and financial resources. Being only one deep often stretches the ability to reach more teachers and administrators.
3. Educational system that focuses on a return to basic math and language arts, therefore not affording time for teachers even to consider integration. Our local system is tying teacher performance to student performance on standardized tests. It is only the very secure teams of teachers that are able and willing to participate with us.
Another part of the Project is a gaming assessment tool. Students can play individually, in teams, and across game spaces. This board game design sported fully motivated and committed teachers. 5 schools were represented with a dozen teams and 75 students.
1. Teams from schools with military populations lost team mates due to parents assigned to permanent change of duty stations.
2. Depending on only one game designer to help all these teams
3. Realizing that publishing board games--turning them into digital assets is a long, long process!
4. Again, the lack of sufficient human resources to facilitate, mentor and guide teams.
However, we did finish games. We are publishing them as boxed board games for each participating team, and we celebrated with food, fun, and awards.
Additionally, the Project does not just tell teachers and other how and why integration with economic and financial literacy works, but it helps teachers do it.
While there were many challenges, and I am sure there will be more in the years ahead, but this Project will add to a child's foundation where he will find his/her ability to confront problems with confidence because they understand the importance of knowing how money and economics work in their world.
Looking down the road, our next challenge will be to reach a tipping point where our grass roots efforts help change the community's current perspective on incorporating and integrating economics and financial literacy as foundational for each child.
Over the years, the Project is supported by a wonderful cast of advisors from education, economics, technology, finance and even graphics and art. We believe the project speaks for itself. Aside from this narrative there are other untold stories, but I believe the photos attached help convey the joy, confidence and general happiness that is so important to building our next generation of well-rounded and outstanding leaders