To ease teacher discomfort and help educators present economic concepts within the scope of their regular school days, ICEE offers training workshops at its 11 educational centers across Indiana. For some teachers, the training is the first economics education they've received since college—if they received any at all.
Puppet Herschel helps students understand economic principles through his adventures in Herschel's World of Economics. (Photo by Purdue Agricultural Communications)
"In all of our training workshops we focus on two things," Day says. "One is content. We teach such things as basic economics, entrepreneurship and personal finance. The second area we focus on is introducing teachers to motivational curriculum materials. So the teachers learn the economic content and then receive the tools to teach that content to their students."
About 2,300 teachers attend ICEE training programs each year, at both graduate credit and non-graduate credit levels. Tuition is subsidized by ICEE donors.
Royerton's Christopher is a training program veteran. She says the workshops have been invaluable.
"The workshops give teachers a comfort level with economics," she says. "As we go through the training, we prepare economics lessons we can use in our schools, as well as receive teaching materials. If the materials weren't strong, teachers would shy away from them."
Cash-and-carry a tune
A favorite curriculum of Christopher's is Energy, Economics and the Environment. The text blends economics with science. ICEE's Teaching Economics Using Children's Literaturewas the inspiration for an activity where Royerton students composed economic-themed songs based on Aesop's fables.
ICEE constantly evaluates its curriculum and training programs, seeking teacher input on what works and what doesn't work. "That empowers teachers," Christopher says. "That connection with teachers makes us want to do more because we know we can make a difference."
Keeping up with the (Dow) Joneses
Tony Pottorff, a social studies teacher at Columbus East High School, is another frequent user of ICEE resources.
"It grows more and more all the time," Pottorff says. "I'm amazed at how much material they have out there."
Pottorff's students have participated in Stock Market Game, one of the most popular activities ICEE sponsors. In each 10-week game, student teams invest $100,000 in imaginary money in stocks and mutual funds. The elementary, middle-school and high-school teams with the top-performing portfolios at the end of the game receive cash prizes.
Although none of the Columbus East teams has finished first in the stock market simulation, they've increased the value of their portfolios. Some of Pottorff's students have taken the game one step further.
"As a result of Stock Market Game, I've had kids go to a broker and take out an investment and look into mutual funds," Pottorff says. "Two kids actually took out Roth IRAs.
"The Indiana Council for Economic Education has really helped me do a better job as a teacher. Economics and social studies tend to be rather dry subjects, but the council's programs have helped me make these subjects relevant to my students."
Relevant—and a lot less dismal.