Back to school I go

By Jeff Fournier

I recently had an opportunity to teach a group of junior and senior kindergarten kids about money: what it is, why we use it, where we can get it and why people collect it. That kind of thing.

These were some of the concepts I tried to cover and some of the questions I tried to answer for the boys and girls who ranged between four and five years of age. It’s a tough audience.

One thing is certain – and I touched on this in a previous guest column – these kids were curious … really curious.

While a few of them, admittedly, had a bit of trouble sitting still for more than two or three minutes at a time, the vast majority were glued to me for the entire time along with my words and, of course, to my coins and the other curious looking “stuff” that I had brought along.

I even had the school secretary, custodian, supply teacher and a few other curious onlookers come into Ms. Clayton’s JK class to take a peek and pick my brain about this coin or that. Seems nearly everyone is fascinated with money and especially when it’s odd and curious.

I had brought along beautiful coins from several different countries – accompanied by a huge map of the world. I showed the kids silver dollars, commemorative medals and tokens, foreign coins and piggy banks. I even unrolled a 40-note sheet of uncut 1973 series $1 bills. That was a popular item.

So how did I keep the kids’ attention during the 45 minutes that I was in the classroom?

No, I’m not Robert Munsch, who bedazzles his audience with wonderful, humorous stories, filled with comic gestures and over-the-top facial expressions and uproarious and silly noises and articulations. But I do believe in the power of storytelling and in play-acting. And I do try to draw the kids in by engaging them with questions, giving and showing examples and interspersing my presentations with plenty of fun activities to break up the ‘monotony’ of the talk.

I have been giving kids’ presentations for years: first, as a basketball coach when I was in high school, then as a soccer coach when I had my own kids and in the schools when my son and daughter’s teachers heard about my “cool” coin collecting hobby.

During my working career, I was called upon to teach kids of all ages (adults too) about water safety around hydro dams and about basic hydroelectricity.

So, I learned that what’s really important in teaching kids is in talking, showing, doing and repeating.

That’s when the best learning occurs.

For an example, I wanted to teach the kids in the classroom why we use money and why it was invented. I concocted a crazy story and did some play acting with one of the co-op students. We each carried around some pineapples, apples, cereal and other food items (really! I brought these along) and then explained to them and showed them just how people used to go about trading for whatever they needed.

Well, you can only imagine what the kids were thinking when I told them, as well as being a pineapple farmer who loved and wanted to trade for cereal, that I also raised elephants, which I had left in the car, coincidentally. The message, that trading doesn’t always make sense, was pretty clear to them which led me into a discussion about the necessity for coinage. Things only got better from there on in!

The point here is? How we approach the subject of coin collecting and money in general, doesn’t have to be stuffy and boring. The subject of money can be fun. And if it’s fun, children’s natural curiosity will get the best of them. By the way, can anybody use a spare elephant?

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