Pennies in Pre-K: Financial Literacy from the Start

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Recently, three of our United Inner City Services (UICS) classrooms were visited via Zoom, for a “Break with a Banker”. UICS used this interaction to counterbalance gender stereotypes in classroom lessons and reinforce the fact that  people of all gender identities do all kinds of tasks and jobs. Over 70 percent of US banking industry employees are male, but Ashlee Carroll, Branch Manager for Great Western Bank in Overland Park, KS, is helping to change our students’ thoughts on what a banker looks like while introducing them to concepts around money and financial literacy. 

Classrooms are a safe space for children to develop their interests in all tasks, all occupations, and all subjects. Boys are praised for being great future fathers and husbands when they feed the baby and cook spaghetti for dinner in their classrooms’ home living areas. Girls are encouraged to name their businesses and remember their helmets as they pretend to fight fires using classroom costumes. UICS uses classroom materials and relationships with program supporters to expose students to strong women in influential roles, sometimes in roles that may not be widely recognized. Working with Ms. Ashlee was the perfect opportunity to show students at UICS that the Bank Manager they imagined might look a little different than they expected. 

Ms. Ashlee volunteered her time as a subject matter expert to extend a learning experience on grocery stores and introduce the concept of coins and monetary value.

“How much is a penny worth?”

“One!!” the children cheered.

“Well, aren’t you so smart!” 

Powerful words to hear from your neighborhood banker. 

Students were introduced to the minting process and discussed the images found on each coin. The covered shape, size, color, value and were introduced to the hobby of coin collecting. Magnified versions of coins were projected onto a screen, while Ms. Ashlee described each coin’s unique features.

In addition to sharing a video and presentation, each classroom received a piggy bank with a set of minted US coins in circulation, magnifying glasses to study the currency, and a copy of the Cat in the Hat Series book, One Cent, Two Cent, Old Cent New Cent.  

UICS teachers focus a good portion of lessons on academic concepts and social-emotional strategies. In addition to pre-K education and arts enrichment, UICS teachers sometimes introduce new concepts from the real world. The purpose of introducing unfamiliar real-world concepts is to encourage curiosity and invite the children to use processes of investigation in order to get more information and find answers about topics they don’t know.

Researchers say that by the age of three, most children are able to understand the basic concepts of value and exchange that are central to economics and that many money habits are set by the time a child is seven years old. Introducing basic concepts of saving with interest and needs vs. wants will help young children grow up with foundational knowledge that can support better saving and spending habits

Starting early allows UICS pre-K students the opportunity to get familiar with the language, basic concepts and foundational knowledge of the money we use. These ideas may be a small start, but Ms. Ashlee says when you invest in something over time, even if it is small, it grows and GROWS. Her presentation included a study of the coins in current circulation and ended with her highlight of the Sacajaweah coin, the only US currency to feature a woman.

In true UICS fashion, the children followed the currency presentation with a project that allowed them to design and create their own coins with art materials. We learned a lot more about where coins come from and that money may not grow on trees but sometimes it can sprout from your imagination.

UICS works to continue our volunteer partnerships and stay connected to the communities and individual supporters that care to give. If you are interested in volunteer service at one of our UICS facilities, please complete our volunteer form.