COAL CITY – They won’t be able to have their own credit cards for eight to 10 years, but Coal City area fourth- and fifth-graders learned Wednesday the ins and outs, as well as the ups and downs, of credit.
Coal City Library’s Money Sense for Tweens class meets once a month at the library. In each meeting, the students learn about a different topic within the broad subject of money. The class spends the first half-hour taking in a lesson on money, and the second half-hour using hands-on learning manipulatives and games bought with grant money from the Community Foundation of Grundy County.
“It’s really cool that this program came from grants through the Community Foundation of Grundy County,” children’s services librarian Sue Zitella said. “We’ve been doing it for about two years now. We hope the kids are learning a bit about money.”
The class usually has about 20 children in it, Zitella said, but attendance was low this time due to students’ conflicting schedules full of practices for plays and basketball.
Those who attended underwent some banking lessons in cartoon form at handsonbanking.org. One example aiding in the explanation of interest featured an imaginary credit card purchase of $100 worth of video games with a 5 percent sales tax, raising the cost to $105.
“The sites we use really connect with the kids,” Zitella said.
The class then budgeted a minimum payment of $20 a month for six months to pay off the games. Using addition, they calculated that it would cost an additional $3.83 if they pay $20 on time each month.
Zitella asked the students why banks issue credit cards. They answered that banks can profit off interest. But a couple wondered aloud a few moments later why people would pay to have a credit card.
They learned how bad credit can accumulate and keep a person from owning a home. That prompted one student to say, “You don’t want to end up living in your mom’s basement.” The group spent the last half-hour playing “ATM Action! Money Game.” Students navigated the board by earning money and keeping track of it on write and wipe game cards.
“I learn a lot, the games are pretty fun and I also get to see all my friends here,” student Bohden Vanek said. “I’ve learned a lot about money.”
In past sessions, the class has learned about concepts such as savings, allowance, budgeting and now credit cards.
“We took it to another level today, by learning how to use credit cards wisely,” Zitella said.
The next meeting is Feb. 17.