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Money management in the real world

Lynn O'Driscoll's Personal Financial Management class at East Ridge High School utilizes a simulation where students are tasked with finding a job, finding an apartment and managing their finances. There is a personal finance lesson that accompanies each part of the simulation. Students are tasked with furnishing their apartment, as well as buying groceries, managing their time and figuring out transportation.

East Ridge High School freshmen are still a ways away from being on their own, but they are already starting to experience the real world.

Students in Lynn O'Driscoll's personal financial management class are getting a taste of the real world through a classroom simulation.

"It's set up in a real life situation of them being on their own and how they are going to handle the different ins and outs that come with that," O'Driscoll said. "Personal finance is such a huge issue that I feel everyone should learn."

The computer simulation puts students in a scenario where they move to a new city and have to find a job.

Based on what type of job the students get, they then have to find and furnish an apartment.

The simulation also has students buy food, pay their bills and decide whether or not to buy a car or take the bus. Other choices include whether or not to attend school in order to get a better job and whether to throw parties.

However, students are also faced with a variety of challenges.

"Sometimes the kids forget to buy food and they die of starvation," "O'Driscoll said, "and sometimes they'll return home from work to find their apartment robbed.

"It's kind of an updated Oregon Trail."

Through the simulation students learn about managing money, opportunity costs of spending their money, and balancing life and work

O'Driscoll began using the simulation three years ago and it proves to be a continued success, she said.

"I feel as a teacher I need to bring as much technology as I can into my room to enhance that learning and a simulation is a great way to do it since it puts the student right into the situation," she said. "It really helps them think about real-life obstacles and challenges that they might face."

East Ridge freshman Zach Avery said he has enjoyed the simulation in O'Driscoll's class because it has taught him to think about what types of issues he could face in the future.

"It's a great way to learn financing," he said. "It really does a good job setting up taking responsibility as a young adult - it helps you know what you need to be aware of."

At the end of the trimester, which wraps up this week, students will face off in a simulation game.

Playing the stock market

In addition to the simulation, O'Driscoll also has her students participate in a stock market game, which is in real time in conjunction with the Wall Street Journal.

Each student is assigned $100,000 that they must invest in a minimum of five companies.

Students must also research the companies to determine which to invest in.

From there students are able to trade stocks or let them ride.

A daily ranking of students is displayed in the classroom to indicate which student has made the best investments.

"It's really a competitive spirit," O'Driscoll said. "They're really engaged in learning about investments."

O'Driscoll said the stock market has proven to be very beneficial to students since it educates them about how important investments are for the future.

"I feel financial literacy is one of the most important issues kids are faced with today," she said. "Through the stock market game they can see the importance of starting early."

O'Driscoll said she hopes to continue using both the simulation and the stock market game because both activities have proven to be a great learning tool for the today's students.

"This is a different style of learning for students and they really, really enjoy it - it's right within their realm of understanding," she said. "More and more studies indicate that gaming is a huge component of learning for today's students.

"With these simulations the students are learning things they're not learning anywhere else about planning for the future."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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