“Balancing the paper’s checkbook,” I answered, annoyed knowing all he wanted to do was to get on my computer.
“I wish they would teach us how to do that in school,” he declared. They don’t? I was amazed to learn that my soon to be freshman in high school had no idea what balancing a checkbook entails. So, after I shared the basics with him, I told him to go ask his little sister more. Because she knows how to balance a checkbook, and run a business, and go in debt and have to return merchandise to get out of it.
That’s because she went with her entire third grade class to a special school called MarketPlace. It’s in Grand Prairie and it was a daylong field trip into the wonderful world of economics.
After preparing for a few weeks ahead of time in their classrooms, the children and their teachers embarked on their adventure into real life. Each was assigned a role to play; whether it was shop owner, employee, town mayor or police officer, all the roles in a “normal” city were filled. Then the kids were let loose to begin their MP day.
The shop owners got a certain amount of inventory, the mayor started collecting taxes, and the city soon became rich with traffic citations issued to “Do Not Walk on the Grass” violators.
Each child had a checkbook. When they got their first paycheck, they had to go to the “bank” to deposit it. Then they had to write checks for the items they purchased on their breaks from their jobs.
As a parent volunteer manning one of the shops, I was amazed at the disappointment on their faces when they realized they didn’t have enough money to buy the trinket they wanted.
“You’ll have to wait until your next paycheck,” I was forced to tell them. But it made me smile inside. Because I knew they were learning a big lesson in life: if you don’t have the money, you can’t buy it. There were no credit cards in MarketPlace. Only the cold hard facts: either you have the money or you don’t. No pooling resources with another kid, no layaway. No cash? No goods.
The instructors huddled the children throughout the day and made them balance their checkbooks. Some were making money by not buying all the items each store was selling. Others were spending all they had and anxiously awaiting their next paychecks. And others were overdrawn.
My daughter actually ended up becoming overdrawn and had to return some of her items. What a hard lesson for an 8-year-old surrounded by her peers to learn. But she got it. She really understood at the end of the day what it meant to “not have enough to buy that this week.”
I believe MarketPlace is a gem for our children. I hope every school in Dallas takes their students to a day of fun in a “real” city (are you reading, Mike Miles?). And I hope my son learns how to manage his money before college. He’s got his heart set on MIT. He’s gonna need his money!
For more information on MarketPlace and how you can get your school involved, visit dubiski.gpisd.org/marketplace or go to Facebook and type in MarketPlace Grand Prairie.