Children’s Museum Exhibit Focuses On Financial Literacy

August 4, 2008

Ancient Aztecs used chocolate. Yap Islanders used 500-lb stones. Follow the money trail and embark on a trip to Moneyville. Debuting Sept. 27 at the Children’s Museum and running through Jan. 18, 2009, this “city” will show you how money makes the world go ‘round as visitors explore the history and culture behind today’s economic concepts.

“We’re teaching valuable life skills that many schools don’t teach,” said Christina Schmidt, exhibit developer at the Children’s Museum of Houston. “Financial literacy isn’t quite out there yet. We’re flipping the coin and shedding light on this priceless need. By engaging kids in real-life situations using monetary models, we are in the forefront of that change.”

Recent financial woes, such as the home mortgage crisis and rising costs of gas and groceries, have revealed the harsh reality of how money affects and shapes the way Americans live. The Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy says the average high school graduate can’t balance a checkbook, has little understanding of earning, spending, saving and investing concepts, and learns about it entirely through trial and error.

“These studies show that children who don’t learn money skills at home, school, or community are on the path to a lifetime of financial instability,” said Schmidt. “Moneyville strives to prevent that by exposing kids to these concepts and establishing solid math skills at an early age. CMH presents Moneyville with the goal of providing kids with opportunities to explore money management and develop skills they will need to succeed in school and in life.”

Moneyville uses the subject of money to build math skills and promote economic literacy in an immersive setting. It creates opportunities for children to develop an understanding of finances through role-play and involvement in interactive challenges. The colorful metropolis includes a bank, a store, an anti-counterfeiting lab, a stock market and a shipping dock. Children can use computer technology to expand their knowledge of basic financial concepts. They can start a business from scratch running a virtual lemonade stand, or hit it big and “invest” in the stock market. They’ll even put their face on a million dollar bill.

The Money Factory – Children will put their detective skills to work in this area that explores the science and technology of making money. They will learn about security features found on U.S. currency in the Anti-Counterfeiting Lab, and discover facts about the global evolution of money, including answers to questions such as what is money, why did it develop, who invented it, and what makes it valuable?

The Bank – What better place to learn about currency, compound interest, and the Federal Reserve System than in The Bank? In this area, kids will follow the life of a dollar bill, see how early investment is the best choice for retirement, and learn how the government manages the money supply. With phones, calculators, and oversized coins, children will be able to explore counting, addition, subtraction, and value while role-playing as bank tellers and customers.

Dollars and Sense – This section is all about discovering strategies for making sound economic decisions in everyday life. Here, children will consider economic choices and personal finances as they try to balance their monthly budget. They will have to decide between needs and wants as they choose between costs (such as: grocery bills, rent, health care, vacations, movies) and many other options. They can find out how much they will have to pay if they use a credit card to buy a $1,000 item and only make the minimum monthly payments.

To Market, to Market – Providing many interactive opportunities for children to learn about markets, prices, supply and demand, this area of the exhibit enables children to take on the roles of entrepreneur, customer, and investor as they open shop in a farmers’ market complete with stalls, shopping baskets, carts, produce, flowers, and other goods, and take on the roles of buyers and sellers. They’ll set up a virtual lemonade stand through which they will learn about profit, loss, supply, demand, price, and what it takes to run a small business. They will try out investment strategies as they learn about four different companies and follow the market through 12 months of trading.

Global Trade – Here, participants will explore the intricacies of global trade as they learn about international markets and local economies from around the world. They will gain an understanding of the unexpected origins of everyday items and why nations participate in trade. Children will use manufacturing- and resource-based clues to guess the identities of “mystery imports”. There will be a display about families and their possessions from around the world, discovering how culture, values, and available resources affect a family’s decisions. Thought-provoking questions encourage visitors to take a closer look and consider the distribution of wealth and resources throughout the world.

Admission is $5 per person and $4 for seniors 65 years and older. Children under two and Museum Members receive free admission. Free Family Nights are offered Thursdays from 5 – 8 p.m. courtesy of The Wortham Foundation, Inc. and Kathrine McGovern and the late John P. McGovern, M.D.

Summer hours (Memorial Day – Labor Day) are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. and Sunday from Noon – 6 p.m. For more information, visit www.cmhouston.org or call 713-522-1138.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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