Teaching that makes cents

By Beth Oltmanns

For many years, NIU has supported economic programs to help teach kindergarten through high school students.

On Oct. 23, NIU was recognized for its support of these programs at the annual conference of the National Council on Economic Education and the National Association of Economic Educators in Chicago.

The Office of Economic Education, which has been a part of the Department of Economics since 1971, focuses on helping teachers better educate their students in economics.

Kindergarten through high school students need to be educated in economics because shopping, buying, working and selling all include economic decisions, said Stephen Karlson, an associate professor in the economics department and director of the Office of Economic Education.

The office provides workshops for teachers to learn how to integrate economics into their lesson plans or to show them how economics already is included, Karlson said. He added that the office covers schools outside of Chicago and north of Interstate 80.

“We’re all over the place,” he said. In the past month, Karlson has traveled to schools in Grays Lake and Dixon.

The office receives money and materials for its workshops and other services from the Illinois Council on Economics Education, Karlson said.

The ICEE is another place on campus that helps to promote economic education. The council has been at NIU for 26 years and maintains nine centers around the state.

In addition to providing workshops for teachers, the ICEE has organized some programs for students, such as The Stock Market Game and an economics poster contest for grade school students, said Joanne Dempsey, executive director of the ICEE.

“As a statewide organization, we work with 2,500 teachers and impact 200,000 students,” Dempsey said.

On its Web site, The Stock Market Game is described as a program primarily used by students in grades four through 12, post-secondary students and others who want to learn more about investing and managing their financial future. The Stock Market Game’s Web site is www.smgww.org.

The economics department also has provided courses for NIU students in the teaching of economics, but nothing has been offered for the spring 2002 semester, Karlson said.