Private Sector/Educator Collaboration: Project Improves Financial, Economic Literacy of America's Youth

Article excerpt

The Family Economics and Financial Education Project (FEFE) began in 2001 at Montana State University with an annual grant from Take Charge America, Inc., a credit counseling and debt management company headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. FEFE's mission is to provide educators with curriculum materials and training to be effective teachers of family economics and finance.

Three core principles guide the Project.

1. The curricula should be written by and for educators to ensure classroom-friendly, practical curricula that would create buy-in from educators who are at the core of the project. The role of the university faculty was to help select the critical concepts to be taught, check on content accuracy, and standardize the lesson plan format. The university also was involved to create a focus on economic and financial theories, concepts, and principles from which to create a grounded set of lesson plans along with current marketplace information. Additionally, because most educators operate in school environments with limited budgets, the curricula and training were to be offered at the lowest cost possible.

2. The curricula needed to use an active learning and a multiple intelligences model for both students and educators. It was believed that active learning would draw educators and students in and would create excitement and energy for the subject matter. Educational research shows that people engage their particular gifts of intelligence and not all intelligence is exercised in the same way. To have learners use their intellectual gifts most effectively and to encourage long-term learning, the material would be offered using as many of the identified intelligences as possible.

3. The project would concentrate on creating training courses and workshops to allow educators to become knowledgeable in the theories, concepts, principles, and facts of family economics and finance. To maximize the curricular adoption process, educators would need to feel confident with the material and the pedagogy. Educator training was believed to be essential to this process.

At the project's inception it was believed that many disciplines would eventually be involved in teaching the curricula, but the initial focus was on family and consumer sciences (FCS) educators because of the emphasis in FCS on the use of the money resource to accomplish family goals. From the beginning of the project, educators from diverse backgrounds including business, social studies, math, and career and technical education, including agriculture, were using the materials.


The two-year curricula development process started with a group of 32 secondary and middle school educators from Montana schools who gathered to receive training from the university faculty and staff involved in the project. The 32 educators began to write, evaluate, and then teach the curricula in their classrooms. A Web site was created to make the curricula available at no charge and the site has grown to include a recommended semester curriculum and a newsletter. All lessons on the site are designed to be stand-alone lessons, with recommendations provided to link the lessons into units and courses. Also, lessons can serve as companion lessons to foods, clothing and textiles, housing, family relations, child development, and other related courses offered in many secondary and middle schools.

Each summer, beginning in 2001, the FEFE faculty and staff from Montana State University hosted an educator training week at which increasing numbers of educators received training and participated in the writing and evaluation of additional lesson plans and curricula as they began to use the materials in their classrooms. Five summer training sessions have occurred since 2001.

The summer training week is comprised of three different courses for university credit. The first three-credit course introduces educators to the curricula, especially the semester-long course recommended by the FEFE faculty, staff, and educators as the way to teach this subject matter in the secondary and middle schools. …