April is National Financial Literacy Month and thanks to a free program sponsored by Hayward Community Credit Union, teachers in a seven county area now have the opportunity to introduce students to and help them solve adult financial dilemmas.
Using Banzai, a world-class software platform designed to teach such real-world financial concepts as paying auto insurance, shopping for groceries, and renting an apartment, students ages 8 and up can learn how to deal with a variety of situations they will face as adults. The engaging program features real-life simulations to illustrate various concepts in a fun and meaningful way. Available scenarios cover topics such as buying expensive concert tickets versus seeking out cheaper sources of entertainment, and the consequences of making only minimum credit card payments.
Banzai is web-based, which means no software needs to be installed in order to use the program, and it can be accessed on all major desktop, tablet, and mobile devices. The award-winning curriculum is currently being used by over 35,000 teachers and is available in all 50 states.
Locally, students in Drummond, Hayward, and Minong have used Banzai. In addition, the program has been taught at LCO Ojibwa Community College and Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College’s Hayward Outreach Center. “We have committed to offering financial literacy instruction to schools in the seven counties that we service,” said Shelley Mell, Marketing Director and Administrative Assistant for Hayward Community Credit Union.
“What I hear from teachers is that there are no specific classes for financial literacy training,” noted Mell. “Schools are really starting to see the need for this type of learning. And with the strict budgeting in place, that’s where we stepped in to provide them with the tools to accomplish that.
“Any school district within Ashland, Bayfield, Barron, Douglas, Rusk, Sawyer, or Washburn counties is eligible to take advantage of this,” explained Mell. “If a teacher at one of those schools logs on to Banzai, they just need to input the name of their school district and our name will come up as a sponsor and we will automatically pay for it.
“It’s very user friendly,” Mell continued. “The teacher just logs on and orders their supplies for the course. There is no cost to the school whatsoever. As long as the students have access to the Internet and laptops, they are all set. And there are booklets that can be used if Internet access is unavailable to a class.”
Banzai Junior is designed for elementary school students (ages 8 thru 12), while Banzai Teen is intended for middle, junior high, and high school students (ages 13 to 18). There is also Banzai Plus for advanced classes (ages 16 and up). “The youngest class that we sponsor right now is at a 6th grade level and we have sponsored all the way up to first year college students,” said Mell. “Banzai is currently working on a primary school program. Once that’s up and running, we will be sponsoring that as well.”
Mell said Banzai offers tutorials in checking and savings accounts, how to read a bank statement, debit versus credit cards, and how interest works. A teacher’s manual is included and the course is aligned with state standards of learning.
“Teachers can select an in-class demo and one of our credit union employees will actually visit their class and conduct an interactive session with their students,” said Mell. “For example, in the 6th grade class we used special doughnuts as a visual aid.” Each doughnut was frosted on 20 percent of its top surface to help demonstrate the “50-20-30 rule.” Students learn how to allocate their income with 50 percent going to fulfill their needs, 30 percent being spent on wants, and 20 percent – the frosting – representing savings.
“It’s very important for them to understand the difference between needs and wants,” Mell said. “By using this principle it will help them build up a savings account. We also gave each kid a plastic piggy bank with a dollar in it to start their savings off right.” Mell said the eager students were instructed to cut into their doughnut at the correct spots to simulate the different percentages. “They couldn’t wait to get to the frosting part,” she joked.
Before agreeing to become a Banzai sponsor, Mell said Hayward Community Credit Union did their homework. “We reviewed their program and track record to see how good of a job they were doing. They are spot on with improving and evolving their curriculum and are very responsive to teachers’ needs.
“They are constantly updating their course materials, adding new features, and are very diligent about keeping up with electronic updates. Their representative said Banzai did not have anyone in our area doing any kind of sponsorship of financial training in the schools so we saw that was a need not being fulfilled.
“We have been active with Banzai since February 2015,” Mell added, “and are now in our third year with the program. We had a couple of different school districts use it at first, and now we’re up to six. Because it really is an excellent program and it’s free, we hope more schools will decide to use Banzai in their classrooms.”
Any interested teachers or school administrators within the seven-county area served by Hayward Community Credit Union should contact Mell at (715) 634- 8931 for more information. Or they can simply log on to www.teachbanzai.com to register and get started.