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November 20, 2002

Indiana economics educators put the 'fun' in funds

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Elementary students in Munster, Ind., and high school seniors in Carmel, Ind., have one thing in common: They think economics is cool.

Hoosier students are getting hooked on economics as a result of good teaching combined with innovative techniques. The revolution in economics teaching is being applauded by the Indiana Council for Economic Education (ICEE), a part of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University.

Harlan Day, ICEE director, said that the professional standards board has changed the accreditation standards for Indiana's economics educators.

"Economics teachers have improved at the high school level," he said. "There is an effort to make sure that those who teach high school economics are adequately prepared in terms of their course work. In the past, teachers with general social studies licenses were eligible to teach economics. They didn't have to have any background in economics; they were a warm body and they often got stuck teaching the economics class."

Michelle Foutz, a teacher of senior economics at Carmel High School, said keeping economics creative is challenging because teachers must cover all of the state's economics standards, but she welcomes the challenge.

Foutz works in the classroom with her students on investment and retirements plans and started an economics club outside the classroom that competes in statewide and national events. Last year her club won the state Economics Challenge contest, losing in the Midwest regional by a tie-breaking point to Iowa. The Iowa team went on to win the national competition.

"You have to come in and be enthused yourself," Foutz said. "Creating a supply-and-demand graph on the board in one class may not be fun, but may become fun in another class depending on the teacher's enthusiasm and what they do with it to make it interesting."

Jim Watt, of Munster, Ind., doesn't have to try to get his third-grade students at Frank H. Hammond Elementary involved in economics - it's their job.

The students work different jobs to earn mini-economy money in a program the school has called "Moneyopolis." The program began three years ago with the third grade, but with its popularity among students and a grant from the Indiana Department of Education, the school has extended the program to fourth- and fifth-graders as well.

Every week the students get their paychecks and have a small fee taken out that represents taxes. The students open bank accounts, invest in the stock market or spend their money. The money is good for food at one of the elementary's two cafes or can be used to purchase the school newspaper, which, like the bank, is run by students.

"I think that by doing a real-life simulation with them their interest has really peaked," Watt said. "When you do it this way it just makes a world of difference."

Day said that elementary students still are not getting enough coursework in economics, though there is improvement. He said Purdue is one of the few educational institutions trying to help with this effort by offering economics teaching courses to elementary teachers.

The council also is an advocate of integrating economics into state testing, such as in the ISTEP (Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress), at the elementary and middle school grade levels.

"I think there is a growing recognition that to function effectively in the world you have to have some understanding of the economic world around you," he said.

Day said comprehending economics is not only critical in personal finance, such as managing one's own retirement plan, but also is an important part of understanding public policy issues.

"In terms of being a good citizen, you have to understand trade and environmental issues and how those affect business costs. How clean can we expect the environment to be and what are the trade-offs?"

Each year the Indiana Council for Economic Education recognizes outstanding economics teachers. All of this year's winners received plaques, and Olin W. Davis award winners each received $500.

The recipients of this year's awards were:

•Dana Smith, president of the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, Lafayette, Ind., the Paul Samuelson Enterprise Award for Community Leadership.

• Maureen Stafford, principal at Frank H. Hammond Elementary School, Munster, Ind., the Lawrence Senesh School Administrator Award.

• David Fultz, Elkhart Memorial High School, Elkhart, Ind., the statewide Olin W. Davis Award for Exemplary Teaching of Economics.

The regional Olin W. Davis Award recipients were:

• Barbara de Gortari, Craig Middle School, Indianapolis.

• Andrew Dorrel, Culver Academies, Culver, Ind.

• Angela Miller, Akron Elementary, Akron, Ind.

• Karen Miller, Burnett Creek Elementary, West Lafayette, Ind.

• Rebecca Pfaffenberger, IPS School #91, Indianapolis.

Honorable mention:

• Carol Metzger, Clinton Prairie Elementary, Frankfort, Ind.

• Barbara Year, Crooked Creek Elementary, Indianapolis.

Writer: Barney Haney, (765) 494-8402, haneyb@purdue.edu

Sources: Michelle Foutz, (317) 257-25050, mfoutz@ccs.k12.in.us

Jim Watt, (574) 836-8147, jbwatt@fhh.munster.k12.in.us

Harlan Day, (765) 494-8544, dayhr@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes, bforbes@aes.purdue.edu; http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/AgComm/public/agnews/

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


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