Excitement has been building at Peachtree for next month’s release of Thanks to Frances Perkins by award-winning author Deborah Hopkinson and illustrator Kristy Caldwell. Not only is it the 85th anniversary of the Social Security Act (August 14), but harsh financial outcomes of the pandemic crisis are putting a much-needed spotlight on Perkins and the helpful services she helped establish. Plus, as we head back to school, we recognize that this book draws attention to a growing need for early economic education. 

Erin YetterNoted economic education expert Erin Yetter helped vet Hopkinson’s manuscript for Thanks to Frances Perkins, and we invited her to speak to us on our blog today about why early economic education is so important and to share some of her favorite resources. Erin is a Lecturer of Economics at the University of Arizona who worked for many years with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis developing curriculum, providing professional development for teachers, and conducting research. She has a PhD in Economic Education from the University of Delaware.

Why is it important for kids to have an early economics education?

The importance of early economic education stems from one important fact: Children must understand the world around them. Learning economics gives children the tools to be informed decisions makers whereby they weigh the costs and benefits of their economic choices—when they choose what college to attend, career to pursue, how much of their income to spend, whom to vote for, and so on. Thus, it is imperative to give them the proper economic content knowledge to make these decisions.

This education should start as early as possible so that children have a strong foundation on which to build more complex economic concepts. Young children can learn economics and even enjoy learning economics when it is linked to real-world applications such as children’s literature and media. For example, did you know there is economics in If You Give a Mouse a Cookie? We are all familiar with the cute mouse who is continuously asking for more. In other words, he has many wants. Wants are desires that can be satisfied by consuming goods and services. The mouse wants a cookie, then he wants milk, then he wants a straw, and so on. Wants, and the fact that they are unlimited, is a foundational concept in economics.

Ready to bring more economics into your classroom, but unsure where to start?

If you are interested to see what economic content should be taught in the K-12 curriculum, check out the Voluntary National Content Standards for Economics published by the Council for Economic Education. This document represents a consensus from the field’s leading economic educators regarding what students should know about economics by the end of grades four, eight and twelve. For example, the concept of “specialization” is scaffolded over time such that students first learn that individuals produce less than they consume. Next, they learn that countries also produce less than they consume. Finally, they learn that specialization is the foundation of trade among countries. Countries will specialize in the production of a few goods and services and then trade other countries for the rest.

What are some great resources for teaching early economics?

There are a lot of resources available, but the trick is finding high quality, rigorous, and engaging content. Great news: the resources below check off all of those boxes!

  1. Council for Economic Educationhttp://councilforeconed.org

Council for Economic EducationThe Council for Economic Education (CEE) has been promoting economic and financial education for more than 60 years. The CEE conducts teacher training programs and develops curricula materials along with the nationally-normed assessment tools such as the Test of Economic Literacy. They also work with affiliates at the state and local level to provide these services and some funding to regional educators.

The CEE’s free curriculum and resource site is EconEdLink: http://www.econedlink.org/

  1. National Association of Economic Educatorshttps://www.naee.net/

The National Association of Economic Educators (NAEE) exits to support economic educators in their promotion of economic and financial literacy. Since 1980, NAEE has provided economic educators with the opportunity for networking, professional development, research, and recognition.

  1. The Federal Reserve Systemhttps://www.federalreserveeducation.org/

The Federal Reserve works at the national level through its regional Reserve Banks to train teachers, develop curriculum materials, conduct research, and partner with state and local organizations to promote economic and financial literacy for its constituents.Economics Media Library

  1. Economics Media Library: https://econ.video

This website provides video clips, neatly organized by topic, from a variety of sources (i.e. TV, movies, commercials, TED Talks). Run by Dr. Jadrian Wooten from Penn State University.

  1. Journal of Economics Teachinghttps://www.journalofeconomicsteaching.org

The mission of the Journal of Economics Teaching is to transmit innovative teaching ideas to teachers of economics at all levels. Articles provide teaching tips from practicing economic educators. All of their material is openly available to interested readers.

  1. Me!

And, of course, if you have any questions about how to get started, where to get more good resources, or just want to chat, please reach out to me directly at eyetter@arizona.edu or follow me on Twitter @erin_yetter.