Learn How Infusionomics Began

It all started at a prep school in Virginia. In the late 1970s, Collegiate School, a K-12 college preparatory school in Richmond, Virginia, began teaching economics to their students using a curriculum developed by the Powell Center for Economic Literacy.

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In 2003, Powell hosted a professional development workshop for teachers, including teachers from StreetSchool Network (SSN), a group of small, private schools for low-income, minority kids who were not making it in regular schools. Many of the Street School teachers responded hesitantly to Powell’s economic curriculum. Todd Goble, vice president of SSN, remembers hearing one of the teachers comment, “These lessons may work at Collegiate, but they won’t work at my urban school.”

Up until this point, the lessons developed by Powell were aimed at students who were comfortable with heavy memorization, independent study, and a didactic instructional style. But that wouldn’t translate to urban kids who typically wouldn’t learn unless they knew the subject would be relevant to their lives.

So, with funding from an Ohio-based foundation, a team—led by Goble and Sagamore fellow Amy Sherman and made up of teachers from SSN—began exploring ways to “urbanize” the Powell curriculum. They soon discovered that this would need to exceed simply changing lesson examples for a different audience.

“Carving time out of the school day to do an economic lesson . . . was very difficult for [Street School] teachers to justify when they were dealing with students who were reading below grade level,” said Jennifer Cornell, executive director for Powell.

That’s when the team decided to boil down the curriculum to 9 basic economic principles that could be taught in short lessons during other classes. For instance, a literature excerpt could include a lesson about scarcity.

From 2006 to 2008, the team introduced the new Infusionomics program into Street Schools in five cities (East Palo Alto, Indianapolis, Memphis, Miami, and Richmond) that included more than 1,100 youth. Each participating school or nonprofit also instituted Smart Money for Kids (originallyEconomis)—a web-based token economy created by Central Ohio Youth for Christ—and an accompanying age-appropriate curriculum of short lessons and games.

Today, Infusionomics principles have impacted more than 35 schools and more than 3,500 students nationwide.

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