ELDORADO -- A program that teaches students real-world lessons regarding money is proving popular with local schools, according to those involved with the program.
Banzai is an online financial education platform designed to give students practical lessons about money and finances without risking their own dollars, says Banzai public relations manager Emily Inman.
"It's a financial literacy program used by over 33,000 teachers nationwide in all 50 states, and it helps students become better stewards of their own money," Inman said.
The program has both online and hands-on components, and is free to students thanks to sponsors. SIU Credit Union is the local sponsor in this area, Inman said, and currently sponsors 51 schools in Illinois. That includes all four school districts in Saline County.
Eldorado High School teacher Teresa Boulds says the program is an integral part of her business class.
"Banzai is a useful program that any student can benefit from. I have used this resource in a financial unit that I teach in a business class that has a mixture of age groups," Boulds said. "This unique online resource uses life scenarios to address topics such as budgeting, using a checking account, direct deposit, ATM machines, debit cards, saving money and more. In addition to recording transactions students are learning lessons in decision making and money management that will carry over into their adult lives."
She said the format of the program lends itself to incorporation into her lesson plans, which includes 30 simulated online transactions that vary due to a student's financial decisions.
"Of course the object of the simulation is to not spend more money than you have and manage to keep some money in savings for future goals or emergencies. It may take students more than one attempt to be successful," Boulds said.
Inman said her company recently developed an elementary-age program the complements the middle school and high school programs already available.
The elementary program is simplified and involves running a hypothetical lemonade stand and will be available in January or February.
The program also is available to parents at no cost on the company's Web site, though the lessons won't include the hands-on kits, Inman said.
"Any parent or really anyone can log on and use the Banzai program," Inman said. "A lot of parents who home school really enjoy that."
For more information or to view the Banzai program, go online to https://siucu.teachbanzai.com/ .