Learn How Infusionomics Works
Infusionomics works like this: teach students economic principles (like opportunity cost, scarcity, supply and demand) and entrepreneurial skills early on and they will reverse the negative cycles that lead to intergenerational poverty.
In fact, anecdotal evidence suggests that the program encourages youth to make good decisions, take responsibility for their actions, and realize their potential as citizens in a global economy, all the while raising student achievement. The program is divided into a three-year course that infuses nine “Keystone Economic Principles” into the core curriculum, introduces a virtual economy called Smart Money for Kids, and provides opportunities for youth entrepreneurship and business planning.
By weaving (or “infusing”) Keystone Economic Principles into a wide range of subjects—English, science, math, and social studies—teachers reinforce one of four themes: choice, costs, resources, and incentives.
“We all make choices.” If students can grasp this first principle in conjunction with the third—“All choices have consequences”—they aren’t far from understanding the basis of the entire economic system.
One student from a high school in Atlanta that teaches Infusionomics recalled to a teacher that he had found himself in a situation where he was tempted to shoot someone in revenge. Instead, he decided to put down his gun, remembering that Infusionomics had taught him about the consequences of his actions.
The second principle—“There Ain’t No Such Thing As a Free Lunch—could have left an impression on one elementary student whose parent told Goble, “When he gets a quarter, he doesn’t spend it right away.”
Similarly, a fourth grade class was given a specific amount of money they could spend on a field trip to Washington, DC. As they began making lunch plans, they realized that if they spent their money on pizza, they wouldn’t have that money to do something else. One girl spoke up: “What we’re really talking about here is opportunity cost.”
Other key principles include:
- Economic systems influence choices (“What choices do I have?”)
- Incentives produce predictable responses (“What matters to me?”)
- Do what you do best, trade for the rest (“What do I do best?”)
- Economic thinking is marginal thinking (“How can I make better choices?”)
- Quantity and quality of resources impact living standards (“What resources do I have?”)
- Prices are determined by market forces of supply and demand and are constantly changing (“What’s the price telling me?”)
Earn, Spend, Save
After learning the keystone principles, students have an opportunity to put them into practice through Smart Money for Kids, a web-based token economy (originally developed by Central Ohio Youth for Christ and Sagamore Senior Fellow Amy Sherman under the name Economis) that gives students experience earning, spending, investing, and building credit. To begin, students receive personal debit cards that are synced with virtual online bank accounts. From there, students can earn currency for participating in positive activities such as tutoring, homework completion, or community service. A weekly paycheck—complete with FICA and other deducted taxes—is directly deposited into their accounts. Then the students learn to manage their resources: they can save, invest in CDs, build a stock portfolio, buy products online, or give to charity. Smart Money builds life skills such as delayed gratification, budgeting, and saving.
More than 1,500 students have interacted with Smart Money since it was created.
Skills for the 21st Century
The final component of Infusionomics gives students the opportunity to put their new financial and economic knowledge into a real scenario. Through“Skills for the 21st Century Marketplace,” students dig into business plan development, entrepreneurship, marketing, résumé building, and global awareness, among other skills.
Students at Brinkley Heights in Memphis are ahead of the curve. In the 2010-2011 school year, each class made a business plan proposing the sale of a unique product. For this they were required to take surveys, make a business plan and marketing plan. Then, each class approached a panel—made up of the executive director of the school, the business manager, and the principal—to ask for a loan to get their businesses started.