MICHIGAN CITY – You can't win all the time – in the stock market or in life – but that doesn't mean you can't still be a winner.
"Learning from the past helps to promote and improve the future," says Kristen Freitag, economics teacher at Michigan City High School, who uses the stock market as one tool to prepare students for real-life experiences.
It seems to be working, as Freitag was recently honored by the Indiana Council for Economic Education as a nominee for the 2019 Olin W. Davis Teaching Award, which honors "exemplary classroom projects or units in economic or personal finance instruction," according to ICEE executive director Jeff Sanson.
While she didn't win the award, she was named a finalist at the ICEE’s Annual Awards for Excellence Luncheon in Noblesville on June 19.
“The ability to think and reason economically continues to be important in today’s world," Sanson said. "Finalists are remarkable in their ability to create learning experiences for students that make decision-making come alive.
"Their students get to not only apply the knowledge they gain from other subjects across the curriculum, they get to practice using economics and personal finance to help make real-world decisions – from managing a household budget to the production and marketing of goods and services,” he said.
The award is named for Davis, who "formalized the economic education programs at Purdue University in 1954," Sanson said. "Under his leadership, economic education’s sphere of influence grew to impact thousands of Indiana citizens."
And that's what Freitag's been doing for 15 years at MCHS.
"That is what I have strived to do as an educator," she said. "Economics is a beautiful subject to teach. There are so many ways to teach and explain concepts ... My students learn immediately that it is something you use for the rest of your life."
She encourages that by promoting active thinking.
"One of my goals as an educator is to push my students into becoming active thinkers," Freitag said. "I have found over time and through practice that if you can relate the subject to a matter that affects them right now, it is easier to help them grasp concepts as a whole in a bigger picture of the subject."
Freitag uses a variety of methods to get her points across and "as times change those methods are evolving into something greater," she said. "I love to introduce a concept, explain it, provide examples, work on a project or activity, then check for understanding ... The most important lesson I have learned is that I have to be able to adapt and change these lessons as time goes on to best reach the students."
And that's why she's there, she said.
"As an educator it is my job to also be a lifelong learner and perfect my trade, and learn new ideas and concepts that can help my students move forward. ... I have adjusted my class over the years so students can study these concepts ... and find enthusiasm within the subject."
That's where the stock market comes in.
"I start giving my students examples of what could happen in markets and have them graph on their desks. For example, if we are talking about the market for ice cream and Harvard releases a study that says, 'If you eat ice cream every night before bed you will live longer,' I ask students to draw the effect on the graph. Is it supply? Or demand? Shift to the right? Left? ... This hands-on approach has improved the knowledge retained in this concept."
She also uses a “Supply & Demand Game” in which students trade with each other to see who can come up with the highest profit.
"The students love the competition and when they are finished – market closes – we look at our results ... I find that all students – every learning level and motivation level – truly enjoy this game and have a strong understanding after we are finished..."
Students also pick stocks and follow them through the course of class, then do a paper on what they learned.
"The students tend to really enjoy explaining and showing each other what they have learned over time," Freitag said. "While researching, the students participate in a stock game simulation in which they take a small amount of money and invest it into the market. With consistent supervision and decisions, they are able to watch their investments move in the market. Many students truly enjoy watching and learning the market, and constantly ask how they can be part of this in real life."
Such games "help promote economics to the next generation," she said.
"Time and time again I have had the privilege of students coming back and saying thank you for the things that they learned in my classroom. My goal as an educator is to inspire students to be productive citizens and be active thinkers with economics. Students are often intimidated by the concept, but when we break down the subject and 'make it real,' students learn to appreciate economics."
And their teacher.
"I have been privileged to teach this subject, creating lifelong relationships, along with forming a foundation of positive reinforcement between my seniors and their ability to use economics in life," Freitag said.
"I have been able to have solid relationships with my students and they too help me become a better educator. As I said at the beginning, learning from the past helps to promote and improve the future."