“Imagine: It is May 2026. You are now 17 – 18 years old and have just graduated from high school. Your parents have decided to help you learn how to live on your own, since you are about to go away to college. To do that, they are setting you free for the summer.”
This is how sixth grade math teacher Nancy Callaway introduced students to their latest math assignment. With thoughts of independence and striking out on their own, students were tasked with managing a budget. Callaway provided mock classified listings, car advertisements and cost of living estimates. Students then determined how to manage everything without going into debt.
“I have done this project before and feel that the students who have done this walked away with an appreciation of what their parents have to do on a day-to-day basis,” says Callaway. Sixth grader Alex Messina enthusiastically agrees. “It’s basically life,” she says. “You get to be an adult and it shows you how grateful you should be to be a kid. You really gain an appreciation for your mom and dad.”
The same was true as Alex and her roommates, Sadie Brien and Pahi Sthanki, selected an apartment. Alex says the sixth graders discussed price and square footage, which is something they may not have considered before. To round out their living expenses students also had to purchase groceries and essentials. Alex says this was her favorite part of the experience as she and her roommates got to make selections online together.
To support their lifestyles, the Middle School students had to select a job from Callaway’s classified listings. Options included jobs common among recent high school graduates. Alex chose to be a receptionist at a dental office, which paid $1,400 a month. The payment experience was yet another surprise for Alex as she learned more about taxes and deductions which left her with a little more than $1,100 a month. Ultimately, Alex was able to successfully manage her income and expenses with approximately $100 remaining in her bank account.
This sixth grade lesson on independence is a shining example of how Episcopal prepares students for life. It is the crossroads between academics and application. The best part is that students truly enjoy the experience and the lesson they will carry throughout their lives. “It’s very fun,” says Alex. “It’s a good way to learn what you have to do. You’re prepared.”