The banking jargon came fast and furious — debit versus credit, interest and principal, savings and checking. 

But the fifth- and sixth-graders at Highland Elementary kept up and, when it was their turn, asked lots of intelligent questions about managing money. 

All morning on Wednesday, volunteers from First Interstate Bank visited the classrooms at Highland to teach students the finer points of money management. 

"Teaching them is rewarding," said Sienna Bell, a First Interstate employee. "There's a lot of adults who don't understand this stuff."

One of the activities gave the students scenarios in which they spend the summer choosing between various activities — some that earned them money and some that cost them money. 

At the end of the game, the students reported on what activities they'd chosen and how much money they had a the end of the summer. 

One group had decided on a bunch of trips to the pool and the movies. 

"So now you're broke," Jodi Jordan, another First Interstate Bank employee told them, smiling.

"They had a lot of fun, it wasn't wrong. Everybody has choices," she told the class. "There's no right or wrong answer, you just have to make decisions."

The employees stressed the importance of saving some money so that the students would have "rainy day" funds. But saving money also gave them "sunny day" funds, fun activities they could do because they'd have the money to do it. 

"I'll probably save my money," said fifth-grader Chloe Wismiller.

"I'm saving my money for college," said classmate Rede Evans.

The students, who got First Interstate Bank water bottles at the end of class, seemed to enjoy the presentation. 

"I learned a lot about debit cards and credit cards," said fifth-grader Sam George. 

Parker Kraske pointed out that it's better to use debit cards than credit cards. 

Parker's sister, Aisley, who's also in the class, said she plans to save all her money, too. She liked learning about where money comes from and where it goes. 

"It goes to all different places," she said. 

Bank volunteer Wendy Roney told the students that as they got older and took jobs and worked hard, they would earn money and, with some of what they learned in class, they'd be able to manage it just a little better. 

"We work hard now, why don't we get paid," one fifth-grader asked her.

"You get paid in other ways," Roney said with a smile. "You're in school. You learn and you grow."  

Among the sixth-graders, the questions got more pointed. One sixth-grade girl reported that her uncle didn't trust banks. They mismanaged his money and messed up paying his bills, she said.

First Interstate was invited to visit Highland through its partnership with the school. The Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools runs the Partners in Education Program, which pairs local businesses with their neighborhood schools. 

Highland and First Interstate have been partners for years. However, given the success of the presentations, First Interstate volunteers will be visiting elementary schools throughout the district. 

"This is something they can't hear enough," Roney said. 




Business Reporter

Business Reporter for the Billings Gazette.