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Four third graders from the Christina School District Jennie E. Smith Elementary School arrived at the Executive Banquet and Conference Center in Newark, Delaware in May excited and ready to participate in the 34th annual Meaningful Economics (ME) competition.
The judges also lined up, ready to review the work of 48 students representing 13 different New Castle County elementary schools that day, noting whether the teams followed instructions carefully in each of the three rounds of competition. This long-running competition for elementary schools, produced by Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship (CEEE), which is part of the University of Delaware program Alfred Lerner College of Commerce and Economicsis designed to test students’ knowledge, teamwork, and creativity when solving problems related to personal finance, economics, and entrepreneurship.
The primary challenge for elementary students was to find a productive way to allocate human resources and work as a team. Their goal was to quickly, accurately, and neatly put together 10 complete story-based personal finance activity kits. shiny parts. The booklet describes an alligator who hopes to buy a candy but cannot do so until he wins, receives, and finds enough money to do so. The completed activity kits, if properly assembled, would be used by the CEEE as part of its economics program for kindergartners and distributed to teachers across the state.
Jennie Smith’s team brainstormed which members would be assigned various tasks: who would neatly count and cut the grapefruit-sized pennies, who would separate the alligator images, who would cut and glue the ME contest logo to the back of the activity instruction booklet, who would fold and record their team ID number on each of the booklets, and place all required items securely in a large Ziploc bag, along with a copy of the instruction book. stories that would serve as the backdrop for the lesson.
Members of Jennie Smith’s team worked calmly and diligently and were among the first competitors to complete the initial challenge. When finished, they admired their work, stood up and gathered for a group hug.
“We finished 15 minutes early, so I think we did well,” said Sophia Lkharz, who admitted to being nervous when she was first dropped off at the site, seeing the other children in different schools also arrive there to compete.
“At first I was really nervous, then I came here and saw my friends, then I was like, ‘I can do this,'” Lkharz said.
The Meaningful Economics competition last took place in 2019 and returned for the first time since the pandemic began. It was again held over a three-day period in northern Delaware—a separate day reserved for each of the third, fourth, and fifth years. The following week, on a single day of competition, the three levels were brought together in Sussex County for separate grade level competitions, taking place at John M. Clayton Elementary School in the Indian River School District. in Frankford, Delaware. The competition is being held in New Castle and Sussex counties with the support of Bank of America and Discover the bank.
Reduced by more than 60% to accommodate social distancing guidelines this year, nearly 200 students from 14 schools still took part in the four days of competition.
Timothy Werbrich, a higher education teacher at May B. Leasure Elementary School, also in the Christina School District, greeted each of his third-graders that morning outside the hall, taking photos their eager faces as their parents dropped them off.
“They’re thrilled to be here and to know that something special awaits them,” Werbrich said. “No matter how they are doing today, they are already looking forward to next year when they have the chance to come back to fourth grade.”
Werbrich, who has been bringing teams to the competition for 20 years, said he immediately understood the importance of competition.
“I think the financial and economic lessons that ME instills are very important for these kids because they aren’t often taught how to manage their money, especially when it comes to investing and entrepreneurship,” he said. . “When this program first started, I made sure my kids would be involved to make sure they were exposed to this stuff.”
As the third-grade Newark competition progressed, the students collaborated to complete a multiple-choice team test, answering questions that tested their acumen in economics, personal finance, and business. entrepreneurship. Watching the young students grapple with the questions and present the reasoning for what they thought were the right answers demonstrated that their teachers – many of whom have also brought teams to ME for over a decade – had prepared them well, not only for this day of competition, but also for lessons that will prove invaluable both for their continuing education and for their future financial life.
The third and final round of competition for the students was to create a new product that would fill a need – the introduction of a new retail ice cream store that would compete with existing favorites, for example – and then come up with a plan to marketing for the business they had created. Once completed, students had to pitch their idea to a panel of judges, made up of volunteers and CEEE staff. The problem as well as the level of difficulty would change daily for each grade level.
“The ME Compeition offers students the opportunity to test their knowledge of economic and personal finance concepts in a competitive setting with their peers,” said Bonnie Meszaros, Associate Director of CEEE. “Most importantly, students are able to apply what they have learned to make products and solve problems outside of a typical school setting.”
Meszaros said the competition also promotes soft skills that students might not learn in the classroom, such as team building, collaboration, time management and presentation skills.
“CEEE is intentional in providing this programming not only to promote the teaching of economics and personal finance, but also for students to see how what they learn can be applied to real-world problems,” said Meszaros.
For their problem-solving idea, the Leasure students created a new pizza-flavored ice cream, which would be widely sold in name-brand stores. Students illustrated a colorful ice cream cone designed with pepperoni and the inside of a pizza flavored cone. The team assigned each member a speaking role so that everyone had a chance to project their voice and formally present their ideas to the judges.
“I really hope we win,” said Rhys Scott, who helped design their colorful ice cream cone.
After lunch, students participated in a human scavenger hunt, designed to encourage networking. The students went to look for other people in the room who could answer “yes” to a grid of questions. The idea was for them to step out of their comfort zone and introduce themselves to strangers, meet new people, and learn something new about someone they didn’t know before.
At the end of the event, the winners of each test round were awarded first through fourth place ribbons. Parents were asked to arrive in time to celebrate with their students. When the contest ended, the room was filled with blue, red, white and yellow ribbons and lots of smiles.
Students also had the chance to write a slogan, design an image and choose a color that would be used on a t-shirt that would be worn by hundreds of students in next year’s ME competition. This year, purple shirts with puzzle pieces filled the event space; the slogan invited students to “Put the pieces together with ME! The winning entry was submitted in 2019 by Daphnis Mock while attending Jefferson School in Sussex County.
In a full-circle moment for the contest, Las Americas Aspira Academy third-grade teacher Diana Magana shared that she was bringing a group of students back to the contest she entered as a student a while ago. many years before starting to teach. Fondly remembering her own experience, she got down to the hard work of choosing which of her social studies and civics students would benefit the most and achieve the best performance.
“This experience is very personal to me, as I participated in this competition many years ago when I was a student,” Manga said. Remembering how proud she was to participate, Manga said she wanted her students to feel the same. This year was the second year she entered a team. “I’m very happy to have them here and to see them live and remember what I went through many years ago and still remember today.”