Along with the association itself, many member banks sponsored the project. “It’s time for banks to start taking credit for the good things that they’re doing in their community,” says Scheithe. “Bankers have been involved in financial literacy before we were even calling it that, so [Moneypalooza] was an opportunity for them to help out with something that could really reach every child in North Carolina.”
The first section of Moneypalooza is about making money, and there are a whole cast of characters the kids can work with. They choose an activity—such as pet sitting with Aunt Polly or selling lemonade with Ellie—to earn green balls that represent money. While they play, they may even get a sense of opportunity costs and entrepreneurship. “Children really need to learn where money comes from in the first place, and that’s something that we sometimes leave out in these lessons,” says Scheithe.
Further into the exhibit, kids can spend the money they’ve earned by choosing items categorized as needs and wants. The goal is to balance these items on a scale. “The spending areas are really showing children the very basic financial education lesson, which is the difference between needs and wants,” says Scheithe. “That is something kids need to learn.”
Children are also encouraged to save money. One way they can do this is by shooting their green balls into a giant piggy bank suspended from the ceiling. When the bank is full, the green balls empty out. Scheithe likens this process to putting money into a CD in order to make more.
Throughout the exhibit, there is messaging about banking to reinforce the children’s play. For example, in an area where kids can deposit money, there is a message explaining that the more they deposit, the more the bankers can help their neighbors by giving out loans. The kids are given examples using the characters in the exhibit to further illustrate this idea. For instance, there is an example stating that Aunt Polly wants to add another pet service to her business, and with a loan she can achieve this goal. At another exhibit kids apply for a loan themselves.
Marbles also hosts formal financial lessons in a classroom setting to further drive home the point. These lessons teach kids about stretching a dollar, earning interest, and much more.
But are the kids getting it?
Scheithe thinks so. “Of course, there’s no pre- and post-test administered because it is active play, but I’m sure if you did a pre- and post-test, you would find that even the smallest kids get some idea of what’s going on,” she says.
Laura Fisher, director of the Education Foundation of ABA, believes complete understanding is less important than the formation of good habits. “Experiential learning is a great way to pass on the savings habit,” she says. “With Moneypalooza, they’re getting experience with money, practicing with money, where there are no consequences. They may not know why they’re doing something, but it starts to become engrained in their mind,” Fisher adds.
What this all adds up to is the importance of financial education for kids, in which banks can lead the way. “[It’s important] for children to know that bankers are friendly people, a bank is a positive place to visit, and that money can be a lot of fun as long as you know exactly what to do with it,” says Scheithe. “If we can make the topic of money less intimidating and an approachable subject, then we’ve really made a difference.”