Coast Guard Academy Cadets, Navy Sailors Teach STEM at School

NEW LONDON -- The third-graders had one objective: to have the most money in their bank account at the end of the game.

A Coast Guard Academy cadet stood at the front of the classroom and explained the rules. Roll the dice. Move the respective number of spaces. Then pick up a card.

Wash and vacuum the family car, deposit $10, she said.

Sixteen cadets and 12 Navy sailors with the Naval Submarine Base participated in Junior Achievement Day at Jennings Elementary School, co-teaching Science, Technology Engineering and Math, also known as STEM, related curriculum to third-, fourth- and fifth-graders.

A national nonprofit, Junior Achievement brings real world knowledge on entrepreneurship, work readiness, and financial literacy to students to better prepare them for economic success in the future.

The cadets and sailors taught 12 classes in total, four each in third, fourth and fifth grade.

While the third-graders played the game in small groups, a Navy sailor sat with one of the groups, advising the students and making sure they understood the rules. The cadets in the room were bent over some of the desks, observing how the game was going.

The third-graders learned financial literacy like withdrawing and depositing money at the bank, and basic tax principles.

Fourth-class cadet Allyson Holfinger said she never got a solid lesson on taxes in school, at least not this early. That's normally taught in high school, she said.

Holfinger said she "applauds teachers" for the tough work they do, figuring out how to teach effectively.

The cadets and sailors received training and information on the material they'd be using prior to teaching, Josh Kelly, education manager for Junior Achievement of Southwest New England, said.

The fourth-graders at Jennings learned more about entrepreneurship, what it is, how to solve problems, and global connections.

The students made origami paper finger games. They chose a number between 1 and 8, and then a color. Then they would choose between two options and see the risk or reward based on that decision.

One female student had to choose whether to replace the fresh lemonade at her lemonade stand with a powder mix or with ice tea. She chose ice tea, which gave her the right answer: Customers grumble but try your iced tea. Sales hold steady.

Fifth-graders learned about workforce readiness, how people get and retain jobs, STEM skill and the free market economy.

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