Posters that make cents

NIU’s Center for Economic Education recognizes Naperville youth

Joyce Z., a fifth-grader at Spring Brook Elementary School in Naperville, was a 2011 state winner for this poster illustrating the concept of scarcity.

Joyce Z., a fifth-grader at Spring Brook Elementary School in Naperville, was a 2011 state winner for this poster illustrating the concept of scarcity.

NIU’s Center for Economic Education and Econ Illinois recently held an awards presentation at NIU-Naperville to honor the state and regional winners and honorable mentions in the 2011 Economic Concepts Poster Contest.

More than 2,500 students from 51 K-12 schools participated.

Students were encouraged to use their imaginations in producing posters to communicate the concepts of scarcity, opportunity cost, goods and services, specialization, producers and consumers or productive resources.

In Naperville’s school districts 203 and 204, the most exceptional examples showed that the students from age 7 to 16 truly understood the specific concepts of economics and could express their ideas in creative and artistic ways. 

Everyone who participated, especially the students, learned valuable lessons about economics. 

Jaisnav R., a first-grader at White Eagle Elementary School in Naperville, was a 2011 state winner for this poster illustrating services and goods.

Jaisnav R., a first-grader at White Eagle Elementary School in Naperville, was a 2011 state winner for this poster illustrating services and goods.

From the 24 entries that made it to the state-level competitions, judges selected 12 extraordinary posters to be placed in the 2012 Econ Illinois 12-month calendar that will be distributed statewide.

Stephen Karlson, co-director of the NIU Center for Economic Education, hosted the event. and adressed the winners: “What you’re doing now is learning skills that will affect you for a lifetime.” 

Karlson teaches these same concepts in his NIU classes and often uses the Economic Illinois calendar to illustrate points during his lectures. “I have been known to take the calendar into my class at NIU and tell my college students, ‘Look, an 8-year-old gets this. You can do it, too,’ ” Karlson said.

One of the many positive outcomes of the Economics Poster Contest was that students shared what they learned with their families.

Sharon Phares, a teacher at White Eagle Elementary School, said, “One of my past students said that their whole family changed the way they live because of opportunity cost. They changed their lifestyle because of their son. They recycle; they’ve reduced their electricity use.” 

Brooke R., a fifth-grader at St. Jacob Elementary School in St. Jacob, was a state winner for her illustration of opportunity cost.

Brooke R., a fifth-grader at St. Jacob Elementary School in St. Jacob, was a state winner for her illustration of opportunity cost.

For those unfamiliar with economic terminology, opportunity cost is the relationship between scarcity and choice.

For example, if someone wants to see a movie and buy a hot dog for lunch, but only has enough money for the movie or lunch, the person must choose between the two. The opportunity cost is the value of what you do not choose. For adults, opportunity cost plays into a decision such as paying off a loan versus taking a vacation.

Kerry DiFusco, from Spring Brook Elementary School, added that her students enjoyed learning about the role they play in the global economy. “It gives us a chance to connect with global market places and the business community, and students can see how they are connected as the consumers.”

DiFusco added that this experience will help her students make responsible choices as they move toward financial independence. “They know what debit cards are,” DiFusco said, “and they know why they shouldn’t get credit cards when they become college students.”

Naperville Mayor Arthur Pradel, who attended the awards presentation, addressed the students: “You are some of the smartest children in Naperville, and I am here to congratulate you.”

Pradel also recognized the efforts of everyone who made the contest possible. “To the students and the parents and the teachers, you are all winners today,” he said.

(A full list of the winners and pictures of their posters is available online.)

While the NIU Center for Economic Education and Econ Illinois make the resources available to learn about economics, committed teachers bring that knowledge to their students.

Joanne Dempsey, director of Econ Illinois, expressed her appreciation for the efforts of Naperville’s teachers. “Without the teachers, these things simply would not happen in the classroom.”

Those who are interested in sparking an interest in economics for students in their communities should contact Kay Chapman, coordinator of the NIU Center for Economic Education, at (815) 753-4751 or kchapman@niu.edu.

Visit the NIU Center for Economic Education website to find information on professional development programs for teachers and see an array of resources for anyone interested in economics and personal finance education for young people and their families.

by Patrick Brice

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