Taking the stock market to Capitol Hill

Giving high school seniors a realistic, hands-on experience, an economics teacher is teaching students in his class by having them play the stock market.

Wapakoneta High School economics teacher Bill Dellinger has been teaching his students financial investment lessons this way for 20 years, but for the first time this year, he is making the experience more competitive as the 30 high school seniors battle it out for 14 weeks against students across the country in the Capitol Hill Challenge.

The competition, sponsored by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIMFA) and the SIFMA Foundation for Investor Education, teaches students about personal finance, economic principles, and the global market.

More than 400 schools from all 50 states are participating in the educational challenge this year with the top five groups awarded with a trip to Washington, D.C., to meet their elected member of Congress, tour the nation’s Capitol and see firsthand how national economic policies are developed.

The challenge works through specific curriculum guides, lesson plans and newsletters sent to teachers to incorporate the program into core mathematics, social studies, business, economics and language arts programs.

Students play for their Congressman, in this case, Republican Jim Jordan,  of Urbana, who serves in the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio’s 4th district.

Dellinger said students spend a couple days a week in the library doing research and they frequently discuss current events. Divided into groups of three or four, they play the stock market for free using information from the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ, as well as a visit from a stock broker, who came in to give the students general ideas and information.

“Now more than ever it is critically important for students to learn about the basics of savings, investing and financial planning and how our future leaders develop math, research and team-building skills that are critical in American business and a global economy,” SIFMA Public Policy Executive Vice Presidentsaid Kenneth E. Bentsen Jr. said.

“We believe in the long-term benefits of preparing our next generation for sound financial decision making and equipping them with the knowledge and skills to benefit from opportunities inherent in the global market place,” SIFMA Foundation Executive Director Melanie Mortimer said.

To date, one of the Wapakoneta High School teams is making money in the project, but they’re just getting started and others are hopeful.

“They are allowed to borrow money and are learning terms,” Dellinger said.

While he admitted it is a little different than real life since they only have 14 weeks to make as much as possible the game requires them to take an increased risk.

Seniors participating in the challenge said they had heard about the stock market game from other classes who went before them but it’s definitely a learning experience, Stephanie Bracy said.

Pulling out her notes, Shelby Cook outlined the things they need to look for when considering an investment.

“It’s not like there’s a chart that goes ding, ding, ding pick this one,” Catie Rankin said. “You have to look it up on the computer and check out the background info.”

Cook said while investments need to be somewhat risky, they can’t be too risky, but the lessons have intrigued her enough that she may consider trying the stock market even after her high school economics course.

“If I had enough money,” said Cook, who would prefer to do the short sell method rather than investing long term.

The girls’ team has invested in Ford, which gives them some stability and cushion, and Pepsi, so far for the challenge.

Jordan met with the students briefly on Tuesday between stops in his day as he headed to Bluffton in the afternoon before attending meetings in Lima and Sidney. The congressman talked to the students about what they were doing and answered some questions on politics before posing for pictures with each group.

Earning an economics degree in college, Jordan advised the students of internship opportunities with his office and told them to never let someone tell them they can’t do something.

“In 1994, I was an assistant wrestling coach for OSU when I decided to run for state representative,” Jordan said of his decision to run despite those who told him he didn’t have a chance. “I’ve won every race I’ve ever been in even though I was always supposed to lose.

“I won because I decided to work hard,” he said. “Hard work doesn’t guarantee a win, but it sure improves your chances.”

Answering questions from the audience, Jordan said he likes the job he has now and has no future plans to run for president.

“I like the job I get the privilege of having now,” said Jordan, who has represented Auglaize County for 17 years through his positions.

He said he’s also enjoyed this term serving as chair of the Republican Conservative Group on Capitol Hill as he handled plotting and strategy.

As he runs for re-election in a new district, Jordan also discussed his preferences for the Republican presidential nomination — Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney — are all fine choices, he said, noting that he’s already voted in the presidential primary but wouldn’t get more specific about for whom.