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Classroom Cash: How classroom currency teaches entrepreneurism

Youth Entrepreneurs brings markets to life by implementing a classroom economy. One of the keys to this is classroom cash. It’s an important part of the hands-on approach in the YE classroom — and here’s why it is so valuable in YE classrooms: 

Classroom cash teaches the value of currency. 

From the onset of the YE class, educators communicate to their students that classroom currency has value. “It’s true for every nation – currency is only worth what it can buy,” says Michael Barrett, a member of YE’s Compass Training Team. “We want to reinforce the idea that this isn’t just a piece of paper,” Michael says. “This has utility for you.” Students explore how economies operate with valuable currency.

The classroom economy incentivizes students. 

In the YE classroom, students get a chance to earn YE currency, manage it and decide what to do with it. Educators incentivize behaviors that are beneficial for students in life. At first, students get paid simply for showing up to class, which rewards attendance and timeliness. But as the class progresses, earning cash gets more challenging. “Students go from earning cash for answering questions to eventually getting paid for asking good questions,” Michael says. It’s one more way that educators can teach important values to their class.

Classroom currency shows students their potential to influence their surroundings. 

During an auction, students utilize their YE dollars to purchase items like pencils and snacks. Teachers eventually sell off larger auction items, like electronics, as the year progresses. “Students get to practice considering opportunity cost and the future,” Michael says. “They take a moment to stop and think, ‘If I buy this item today, I may not have currency to buy that larger item tomorrow.’”

Classroom currency teaches subjective value. 

YE cash is only as valuable as what it can buy. Students discover subjective value when they realize something is only worth what someone else is willing to trade for it – but that value differs depending on the person. What one student finds valuable is not the same as what another student finds valuable, just as in a real economy.

“When students participate in this classroom economy, they practice managing money and respecting each other in a safe learning environment,” Michael says. “They can connect their experience with YE to the real world, so when they do go out and earn actual money, they know what to do with it.”