Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Where's George? These Students Want to Find out Class Tracks Currency's Movement

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Where's George? These Students Want to Find out Class Tracks Currency's Movement

Article excerpt

Byline: Maggie FitzRoy

PONTE VEDRA BEACH -- One day last year, after he paid for his lunch, Landrum Middle School teacher Ed Thomas looked at his change, as he always does.

He noticed an unusual message on one of the $1 bills; it read ""

Curious, he went to that Web site to see what those words meant. His discovery led to a semester-long project for his sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade computer technology students.

The Web site, which was created about seven years ago, is a place where people of all ages go to track their money as it is spent around the country and the world. Although the site is usually used as a hobby, Thomas designed a fun and educational school project around it.

To track their money, his students must rely on the kindness, curiosity and cooperation of strangers and they are hoping Beaches residents will keep an eye out for logos.

"I think it's cool to see who all gets your money because it goes so many different places," eighth-grader Kayla Benoit said.

Every day at school, Thomas's students spend about five minutes stamping on the margins of bills they bring to class. On another margin, they stamp the instructions "enter series and serial number."

They spend each bill as they ordinarily would, at lunch, in the soda machine or at a store. Then they regularly check the Web site to see if a person who later received the bill entered its identifying numbers.

The site, which is approved by the Treasury Department, says only about 10 percent of all stamped bills are reported.

"That's why we're stamping as many bills as we can," Thomas said. "I look at my money; most people don't."

Thomas said he researched the site before using it with his class. He said it's legal to write in the margins of a bill, as long as the money is not defaced.

"You can't stamp a mustache on George [Washington] or Nazi swastikas or crosses," Thomas said. "You can't change the amount of the bill. But people have been drawing on money forever; this gives kids information and shows kids how the economy works."

He said the project, which is just one of several they will be working on for the rest of the year, will teach the students other academic skills, with lessons in math, economics and history.

Each student will track their bills, learn how to enter the data into a data bank and keep spreadsheets.

"What they mostly know right now is stamping and spending," Thomas said. "Some of the kids have pride of authorship here. They don't want to spend the money, they want to frame it and put it on the wall."

Thomas looked around the room at the beginning of a second-period class and asked who brought in money that day. Those who did raised their hands. Thomas handed out red and blue stamps and they went to work. …

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