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Kohala kids prove Wall Street worth


  • Teacher Connie Green
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It seems that sixth-graders Keelee Thering, James Apostadiro and Troy Emeliano, from Kohala Middle School on Hawaii island, have figured out a way to beat the market. At least in the short term.

Over the past 10 weeks, their team’s virtual investment portfolio increased 4.95 percent in value as they competed against students across the state in the Hawaii Stock Market Simulation. Pretty impressive considering the Standard & Poor’s 500 index only went up 0.60 percent during that same period.

The Hawaii SMS is an interactive program that helps Hawaii students learn how the U.S. market system works. The spring simulation ran from Feb. 7 through April 15. Teams of two to four students each invested a hypothetical $100,000 in stocks, bonds and mutual funds over this 10-week period.

Kohala sixth-grade teacher Connie Green first became acquainted with the Hawaii Stock Market Simulation through an HCEE-sponsored training for teachers in 2006. Since then she has used the game to help teach economic concepts to all ages of students from third grade up to eighth grade.

"It is an excellent teaching tool," she said. "Students love to get involved because learning is presented within a fun, interactive format."

Teachers use the SMS to incorporate economics, finance, current events, math, social studies and technology in the classroom. The interactive, team format promotes collaboration and strengthens students’ computer and Internet skills. Participation encourages students to think about setting goals and saving the money they need to reach those goals.

Green found that it was beneficial to do most of the trading at school so that she could monitor the students and offer advice. She was able to use the desktop computers in her classroom and borrow enough laptops from other teachers so that each team could have access to its own computer. She also used an interactive whiteboard to demonstrate how to navigate the SMS site.

Since many families don’t have Internet access at home, Principal Janette Snelling has worked tirelessly to improve Kohala Middle School’s technology capabilities. She has written numerous grants to purchase computers. She strongly believes in the importance of providing state-of-the-art connections for students at school in order to prepare them for their future.

Students kept notebooks and charts to map their prog­ress as they invested. Keelee said that initially their team chose the most expensive and well-known names they knew. But Troy interjected that he also liked to analyze graphs and charts to see how different stocks were performing. Through research the students did notice trends.

Their basic strategy for limiting losses? When a stock started to go down for a couple of days straight, they sold most of it off.

"We also bought a wide variety (of stocks) because Ms. Green talked about a diversified portfolio," added James. Some of their top performers over the 10-week simulation Costco (+10.24 percent), Bank of America (+19.06 percent) and Game­Stop Corp., whose stock increased in value by a whopping 32.44 percent.

Green loves teaching the economics unit in her classes. Not only is it fun and exciting for the students, but she learns a lot from the experience each semester as well.

"In my own education, growing up, I did not have much economics instruction," she admitted. "I began learning about investing rather late in life."

She realizes now that financial security is essential for a successful life and plans lessons to give her students a basic overview of economics and investing principles.

How did these students react to the news that their team had won the Elementary/Middle School Division?

"We ate trail mix and cookies as a celebration," reported Keelee. All three students report that their parents are excited and proud that they won — as they should be.

HCEE is a statewide partnership of business, labor and education. It is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit, 501(c)3 educational organization. The council’s mission is to promote and improve the teaching of economics in Hawaii’s public and private schools and increase the economic and financial literacy of Hawaii’s students and residents.

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Ellen Morrison is program manager for the Hawaii Council on Economic Education.

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