The Awesome Island Game is a great way to introduce students to the fundamental concepts of personal finance. While no game, single lesson or school assembly can substitute good teaching and a well designed course, Awesome Island is a great way to get financial education started or to further engage students in the classroom. Each game comes complete with player game sheets, job and career cards, investment share cards and spinners, visual aids (travel posters), CD with projectable game spreadsheet. Only one game is needed for an entire classroom to play at once.
During its development, the game was played in the following classrooms:
5th grade suburban
8th grade urban
Semi-urban High school
Rural High School
7th grade “special needs”
6th grade Gifted and Talented
Regional Technical school
In some cases the game was played within a dedicated block schedule, in others it was split into traditional class periods over multiple days. In all cases, 100% student engagement was observed. Students at higher grades picked up game play and were able to “do the math” at a faster pace and usually finished in less time than students in the elementary and middle grades. Upon later return to the classroom, each class of students demonstrated content knowledge by easily reciting the components of a budget or explaining different types of investments. Awesome Island works.
Examples of Teachable moments –
Careers and Income
Every player gets a first job with income. It is not a good job (grocery bagger, shoe shiner). It encourages them to invest in education to get a better job. Career and Professional jobs bring more income (and increased taxes). This can open up good discussions (What does an engineer or architect do? Are there different kinds of nursing jobs? What is a CEO?)
Every player is given money by their employer to invest (2% of salary). Players should be told that most people recommend at least 10% of income go into saving and investing. The game does not introduce a mechanism for saving so it is a great point of discussion – what is the difference between saving (not spending) and investing (putting money at risk). Investing options are given generic titles like Manufacturing and Technology; easy points of discussion on what are real companies in these areas, in your region. Lead a discussion on what is entrepreneurship.
Credit and Debt
All players are given an opportunity to go into debt. Explain that the ability to go into debt is called credit. How do people earn credit – it is their reputation for using money. Good financial choices earn credit and the ability to use other people’s money for their gain.
The game introduces insurance as an expense in the budget; but offers no details. Lead a discussion on what is included here. Car insurance, renters or home insurance, medical insurance are all topics of discussion.
The game allows players to give any portion of their income toward philanthropy. What does this mean? Lead a discussion on various ways people choose to give back to the community. Philanthropy does not always have to be money; volunteer time can be very valuable.
Customize the Game –
Make the game your own by introducing new elements, or random life events to the game. Create pairs of individuals (call them a married couple) and make them decide together. You could add a tax refund (increasing income) for players who choose to start a family, or an import tax (lowering income) on owners of Manufacturing stock. You can put an extra expense on players for car repair or a new roof for their home. You could randomly choose a career and change their income because of increased demand for that job. Have fun with it.