Educators from the Harrisonburg City and Rockingham County Public Schools were honored for their innovative and effective ways of bringing economics lessons to the classroom. The Economic Education Awards, presented on Oct. 17, were sponsored by the Harrisonburg Rotary Club and the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Shenandoah Valley Economic Education, Inc. The awards include cash prizes ranging from $250 to $1,000.
“Economics is important–and everybody understands that in a presidential election year,” said JMU economics professor William Wood, director of the university’s Center for Economic Education. “Economic education may even be more important than economics at a time such as this. Think about how different our campaign might be if large numbers of voters truly understood economics and did not fall for easy slogans.”
Russell Kohrs of the Massanutten Regional Governor’s School for Environmental Science and Technology was the grand prize winner. His project, “Exploring Energy: An Economic and Environmental Exploration of Solar Energy,” taught students important lessons on environmental principles and economic concepts.
The reserve grand prize went to Lisa Long and Walt Williamson of Harrisonburg High School for creating “The Blue Streak Food Company,” a meal delivery business for teachers that involved students at every stage–from recipe selection to delivery.
Virginia Munns of Smithland Elementary School was the first-place winner in the elementary division. Her project, “Auction Antics,” involved kindergarten students exchanging pennies for items ranging from pets to privileges to teach lessons about cost and choice.
Two projects were recognized in the middle school division. Allen J. Ruliffson of J. Frank Hillyard Middle School won first place honors for “Diamonds are Forever.” The project engaged all of Hillyard’s seventh graders in studies of the international market for diamonds. The second place prize was won by Callie Randolph and Marta Frederick of Skyline Middle School for “Homemade Vs. Store-Bought Crepes.” The three-day lesson used an extended cost comparison to teach students about marketing, decision-making and cooking.
All of the projects were entered in a statewide competition, which awards three prizes for the K-12 level. Randolph and Frederick’s project received the second place award in that competition, while Long and Williamson received third place for their project. These awards will be presented on Dec. 9 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
In addition to the local awards, regional and state-level honors were presented at the event:
- Beth Yelverton, librarian at Ottobine Elementary School, was the Shenandoah Regional Winner for the “Reading Makes Cent$” program, sponsored by the Virginia 529 college savings plan. Under Yelverton’s direction, Ottobine students read the most economics-relevant books in the Shenandoah region.
- Hillyard’s Ruliffson, who was honored in the local competition, was named Virginia Social Studies Teacher of the Year. He also will be recognized at the annual meeting of the National Council for the Social Studies.
- Sondra Colvin and Emily Hartman of South River Elementary School were winners in a statewide mini-grant competition sponsored by the Virginia Council on Economic Education. They used their mini-grant to start a “Coffee Cart” business at the school, involving their 4thand 5th grade students. The business was so successful that it expanded to become the “The South River Breakfast Cart,” complete with hand-made uniforms for the student employees who served teachers throughout the school.
The JMU Center for Economic Education is an affiliate of the Virginia Council on Economic Education. Its teacher outreach is a sponsored program of Shenandoah Valley Economic Education, Inc., a nonprofit corporation that seeks to promote economic literacy and understanding of the free enterprise system in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.