Banzai program teaches students financial literacy

Columbia Heights student Samantha Javes uses her booklet to follow along with the Banzai online software. (Submitted Photo)
Columbia Heights student Samantha Javes uses her booklet to follow along with the Banzai online software. (Submitted Photo)

It’s common knowledge that everyone should be smart with their money, although many young adults don’t start learning how to manage their personal finances until well after college. Gaining financial knowledge is essential to monetary success and financial literacy program Banzai does just that. Designed for high school and college students, Banzai uses real world examples and interactive games to allow kids to work through adult financial dilemmas to demonstrate financial responsibilities and costs that they will face in the future.

 

Banzai can be used in math and personal finance classes, as well as transition programs at local high schools. Transition programs are designed for high school graduates between the ages of 18 to 21, and refine career and life skills such as job interviewing, putting together a resume, healthy cooking, and budgeting.

Columbia Heights transition teacher Kim Anderson began using Banzai in her classroom two years ago. She incorporates the program alongside lessons in her budgeting unit. Banzai has helped Anderson to pull together past curriculums and provide a fun and exciting way for her students to learn in this unit.

“There hasn’t been a program that has laid things out so succinctly,” Anderson said. “The program doesn’t necessarily go in depth into each subject, but it’s good for showing them the overall picture.”

She said her students come in with a variety of knowledge when it comes to banking. While some have their own checking and savings accounts, others vaguely know what a budget is.

Banzai includes four steps for students to complete: the pre-test, life scenarios, the game, and the post-test. The pre-test allows instructors and students to gauge individual initial levels of understanding. Following the test, students begin to learn about financial terms and concepts in the life scenarios section. Using the online software and booklet, students work through real-life adult financial dilemmas by taking money out of their “jars” in different categories which budgetsfor their car, housing, and food. Students can then play an interactive game where they begin to make their own life choices when it comes to saving and spending money, leading to their end goal of saving $2,000 for college. The post-test can then be used to measure improvement in financial literacy and understanding.

The program aligns with Minnesota State Curriculum and its state recommendations for teaching financial literacy, according to the state’s Academic Standards in Social Studies. The program’s life scenarios allow students to learn economic reasoning skills through identifying goals and considering short- and long-run costs and benefits. Students also learn about their own personal finance by applying economic concepts to personal financial planning, budgeting, investing, and insuring decisions.

Financial One Credit Union sponsors the program for 99 local schools, including public and private schools in Columbia Heights, Fridley, New Brighton, Mounds View, and Minneapolis. The sponsorship allows over 3,000 students to receive classroom materials and an opportunity to learn about finances through this program.

The company’s mission statement is to ‘improve the financial well being and peace of mind of our members within the communities we serve.’

Financial One President Ross Bloomquist said that Financial One decided to sponsor Banzai because of their mission.

“We feel that we are doing that effectively at the branches with our members, and we wanted another resource or avenue that we could do that in the communities,” Bloomquist said.

Bloomquist said that the credit union sought out many different financial literacy programs, but ultimately decided on Banzai because it provided real-world examples and application method.

“Generally speaking, schools don’t provide financial literacy training for students. Young people don’t learn until the situation happens. By providing the program, they get to walk through these scenarios and understand what it’s like to be an adult and make financial decisions and the complexity [of those decisions],” he said.
In quotes provided by Financial One, students have said, “now I know what my parents go through” and “being an adult is hard and a lot of work and responsibility.”

“The feedback has been very positive from both teachers and students,” Bloomquist said. “We will continue sponsoring this program for years to come.”