Teaching Kids How to Plant Money Trees Just Got a Whole Lot Easier (Video)
Financial education is nearly entirely missing from primary and high-school curricula in the United States. While an overwhelming majority of students will never use lessons like the Pythagorean Theorem or measuring an isosceles triangle in daily life, most will likely need to manage a bank account. Yet the latter is all but absent entirely from standard classrooms. And while education reform is a major movement in the United States (such as the fighting for the removal of standardized testing or Common Core), there has been less attention paid to the idea of making education more practical. In the smartphone era when children have quite literally the whole world at their fingertips, learning the skills necessary to navigate the complicated waters of independence therefore becomes even more crucial.
But how can children be expected to know how to keep themselves financially secure if they’re not taught how to maintain a savings account? Such a problem is compounded in underprivileged communities, where access to extracurricular classes, tutoring sessions, and other auxiliary learning tools is at best expensive and at worst obsolete. Coupled with a society in which material possessions are held up as important contributors to a sense of self worth, the prevalence of debt, predatory lending, and a lack of financial education can be really detrimental to entire communities. However, companies like iSow are aiming to end that cycle before it begins though incorporating financial education into a child’s curriculum of study, and the potential for real change is endless.
Founded by Tanya Van Court in 2014, iSow grew out of an interaction she had with her own daughter, who on her 9th birthday asked for enough money to start an investment account. It was then, Van Court says, that she realized the following: “gift-giving for young people was broken, and we are giving them more and more goods on holidays and birthdays (that they don’t value) instead of teaching them important values.” Rather than limit that form of reasoning to her own family, Van Court launched her company with the motto of “Plant a seed. Watch it grow.” And grow it has. The web-based company is similar in concept to sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe, but what makes iSow stand apart is its focus on fostering in children an understanding and appreciation for financial knowledge and planning.
As Van Court tells Ambrosia for Heads, “iSow lets young people save for goals instead of goods in three categories: saving for the future, sharing with others, and spending on things that matter.” Users are invited to create a profile which includes the funds, causes, or items kids are “sowing” for their futures. For example, “With iSow, instead of running to the toy store to do the ‘Saturday morning shuffle’ on your way to a birthday party, you can go check out what the birthday boy or birthday girl is Sowing for, and give them $10 to their causes, $10 to their wishes, and $10 to their savings goals,” says Van Court. By setting up an iSow account, not only are children getting a real-time lesson in how money works, but just as importantly it “lets young people learn healthy financial habits and teaches them how to be goal-oriented instead of expecting immediate gratification.”
But because iSow was created for kids, it uses language and visual tools with which Generation Z is familiar. Hip-Hop lyrics, memes, and other aides make concepts like “investing, saving for retirement, and not being taken advantage of with fluctuating credit card offers and APRs” more digestible. Like this Rick Ross-inspired example, memes are a familiar, engaging way to foster a deeper grasp of the financial ins and outs that – let’s face it – can be rather bland and off-putting to read.
While Hip-Hop is by no means the only culture in which materialism is promoted, it is undeniably the most influential genre in the world today, and its utilitarian properties in the classroom are infinite. Heads may be interested in Flocabulary, an academic organization that uses Hip-Hop in all realms of K-12 education. For more information on iSow and how it works, check out this helpful visual guide.