Originally published in Teaching Today Fall 2018 Volume 2
A new financial literacy game for Grades 9-12 will soon be available to Wisconsin public schools for free. The game— Don’t Be Jack™: High School Edition—was developed by WEA Member Benefits with the help of University of Wisconsin-Whitewater lecturer Julie Woletz and Jefferson Middle School teacher Erich Utrie.
Don’t Be Jack was originally created eight years ago by Member Benefits as part of their financial education program aimed at helping Wisconsin public school employees secure their financial future. According to Sonja Penner, Director of Communications for Member Benefits, it was based on a popular brochure (featuring Jack and Jill) that illustrated the power of compounding. In this scenario, Jill saved with a small amount right away and kept adding to it, allowing compound interest to grow her retirement balance. Jack, however, delayed saving which resulted in far less in his account at retirement. The game expanded on the premise that financial mistakes we make now can have long-term and sometimes profound impact on our future financial security.
“Educators who played the game enjoyed the social interaction, team work, and element of fun the game brought to learning about finances. They also saw the potential for Don’t Be Jack in the classroom and we received many requests over the years for a student edition,” Penner said. Notably, the game received the Excellence in Financial Literacy Education (EIFLE) Award in 2012 and research administered by the University of Wisconsin Center for Financial Security in 2014 found that Don’t Be Jack™ positively impacted the financial behavior of those who played the game.
While Member Benefits was interested in creating a classroom version, Penner said finding the expertise needed to modify the game contents for a younger audience took time. Member Benefits wanted people who could align the game with Wisconsin Academic Standards for Personal Financial Literacy, as well as evaluate and tweak the game play and supporting materials to provide optimum flexibility to accommodate varying class schedules and educator styles. In addition, it was important to ensure the content was readily understandable and relevant to high school students.
Fortunately, she connected with Utrie and Woletz earlier this year. Both have extensive classroom experience and a passion for financial literacy. Collaboration and work took place over the summer and in August they facilitated a test run of the game with students from Columbus. On October 19, Utrie facilitated the game at the EconomicsWisconsin event (an economics education conference) at Lambeau Field. Likewise, Woletz plans to present at the Wisconsin Educators of Business and Information Technology conference next year. “We are really happy with the results and think educators will like it, too,” says Penner. “The game allows students to use teamwork in making decisions and spurs discussion about personal finance issues. And it was designed to be open-ended, so it can be saved and reopened on another day or another week. Classes can continue using it as a refresher throughout the year if they want.”
The release of the game is timely as Wisconsin schools are in the midst of their first full school year implementing components of Wisconsin Act 94 that require school districts to adopt academic standards for financial literacy and incorporate instruction into the curriculum in grades kindergarten to 12.
There are long-term plans for a middle-school version of the same game.
WEA Member Benefits provides financial programs and services exclusively to Wisconsin public school employees. “Financial education is at the core of what we do. Financial knowledge empowers people to take control of their finances and secure their future. We are extremely pleased to make Don’t Be Jack available at no cost in the classroom. We hope educators throughout the state will take advantage of this fun and engaging tool to help students learn about personal finance,” adds Penner.
More information can be found at weabenefits.com/DBJstudent