Based on course enrollments, the growth of the Investment Club, and the popularity of Shark Tank-style projects in the Upper School, we know that financial literacy, economics, and entrepreneurship are topics that spark our students’ interest. In addition, Potomac defines financial literacy as one of the critical life skills that we aim to help all students develop. After several months of focused discussion, Upper School faculty and administrators have created a pilot concentration program to allow deeper exploration of one or more of these topics of interest.
Not just dollars and cents.
Our real-world approach to financial literacy empowers students across all divisions with the mindset to start making sound financial decisions and develop into responsible global citizens.
We go beyond the abstract. We build real budgets and calculate cost of living. We investigate banks and invest funds for hypothetical start-ups. We create business plans and pay mock taxes. And to make things more interesting – we dig in to cryptocurrency.
Throughout the curriculum we have integrated lessons about key financial pillars: earning, borrowing, spending, donating, saving, and investing. Beginning early allows us to reinforce these healthy habits as students move on to higher divisions, all while maintaining developmentally appropriate expectations.
In the Lower School, our students begin to build the foundation of financial literacy. Students learn the difference between wants and needs – helping them understand why people use money – and they begin to understand what it means to save towards a purchase. They begin to make connections between jobs and money, learn about farmers and grocery stores, and play games that teach what it means to spend, borrow, donate, earn, and budget. Learning money values, setting goals, and how to make sound financial decisions are critical life skills that we focus on in Lower School.
middle and intermediate schools
In the Middle and Intermediate Schools, students build on concepts learned in Lower School. Whether they are creating a project that needs a budget, learning about compounding interest in math, studying stocks in Grade 8, or learning what constitutes an advanced economy, financial concepts are integrated into the curriculum. Students learn about cost of living and related fluctuations based on location and income - these often turn into productive discussions around socio-economic differences. Students also dig into lessons on credit, high interest loans, payback or fallback, interest and why it exists, stocks and volatility. We also research financial websites that help manage savings, investments, and teach budgeting.
In the Upper School we have an Investment Club, Financial Literacy Student Leaders, and a Concentration Program focused on finance and business – Economics, Finance, Entrepreneurship, and Business Concentration (EFEB) – to name a few. Advanced concepts like digital financial services, crypto, estimating sales tax, deductions for tax and social security, and insurance are explored. We prepare them for life after Potomac by helping them grasp – and implement – how to apply for a grant, scholarship, loan, and other types of funding for postsecondary education. Information literacy plays a crucial role as students learn to identify reliable sources of information. Healthy debates often break out, like why rates escalate to troublesome levels, and the reasons behind this. Overall, in this division, students have a healthy understanding of how financial decisions impact the global economy.
Potomac students Lauren Hilliard and Abigael Lonkeng participated in the virtual ChangeFest hosted by LearnServe. The event was the culmination of a seven-month Fellows Program focused on social entrepreneurship that included students from 30 public, charter, and independent schools across the DC area. Each student pitched their social venture to a panel of judges. Lauren's initiative focused on code switching, while Abigael focused on providing financial literacy resources to underserved community members. Congratulations to both on developing compelling social ventures!
The Upper School's Financial Literacy Student Leaders – seniors under the direction of faculty member Dr. Giorgio Secondi – held financial literacy assemblies for their classmates. Topics included budgeting and cost of living, credit and debit cards, credit scores, saving and investing, debt, and taxes. In addition to covering basic principles, the presenters shared real-world examples and informative charts. At the end of the assemblies, the sophomores tested their knowledge with a quiz, while the seniors participated in a number of games with prizes.
Our second and third graders engaged in financial literacy experiences early this week. Spark Business Academy joined us to lead one-day “Dollars and Sense” courses for each grade. The project-based learning experiences focused on foreign currencies (e.g., by continent) and exchange rates, donating money/philanthropy, and how to save. The students had fun working in teams as they applied their math skills and learned about the value and uses of money. View the photo gallery.