"WOW Money": From Family Budget to Guinness World Record
Three Mariupol students are using game-based learning to teach the basics of business activities to schoolchildren and children from boarding schools in their city.
The atmosphere is businesslike at Mariupol Electromechanical College in Eastern Ukraine. Big money is being decided here. Six people are calculating tens of thousands in loans, interest rates, the future benefit of investing, and income sharing, and then carefully inserting the amounts into the form’s columns.
What looks like a meeting of a serious financial company is a Life Capital training game, at which 16-year-old participants of the Mariupol School of Financial Literacy WOW Money are acting as future bankers and investors.
The school has emerged due to three Mariupol students’ participation in one of the rounds of the UPSHIFT Youth Innovative programme. Now, the young people are using game-based learning to teach the basics of business activities to schoolchildren and children from boarding schools in their city.
Launched by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), with support from the European Union (EU), the UPSHIFT Ukraine programme is empowering young people in Mariupol by developing their social entrepreneurial skills and providing funds for youth-driven projects.
The large inscription “I'm smart” on the wall of the classroom where the school's participants are meeting is entirely in line with the students’ purpose. “Our target audience is those who have no opportunity to learn the basics of economics. We want financial literacy to be taught in schools. Everyone needs to be more rational about their financial situations and the future,” says Dmytro Hutselo, a team member. Dmytro looks like a serious guy in a yellow T-shirt illustrated with banknotes, credit cards, and income schedules.
Dmytro and his two friends, Bohdan Kazantsev and Anastasiia Balynska, were very passionate about Life Capital, the financial game developed in Kharkiv for training in transaction monitoring and financial strategy building.
“It’s an exciting game, similar to Monopoly, but it teaches you to save money, calculate family budgets and save for your own business. We play for four hours or more, and it is always fascinating,” says Nastya, smiling, and showing the coloured paper board with chips and game money on it.
When they found out about the UPSHIFT selections, the friends came up with a project based on their hobbies, and they won UAH 48,000 to implement it.
“Our emotions after winning were just crazy. We felt very uplifted and started working on the project immediately. We spent three months preparing for the school opening, trained to become coaches, and adapted the game for children,” Dmytro recalls.
The young people rationally and responsibly spent the money allocated by UNICEF and the EU. They bought a laptop and a projector to demonstrate the rules of the game, equipped their office, and purchased several sets of Life Capital as prizes for students participating in tournaments of the game.
“We enjoy working with children in boarding schools. Their teachers told us that they might not understand the rules, that it would be difficult for them because of age and health problems. But all the kids did really well. They were curious. We even played a game with deaf-mute children. We remember it very well,” reveals Bohdan, a team member, who dreams of becoming an entrepreneur and starting his own business in the future.
Now the adolescents from WOW Money are combining schooling, organizing games in schools, and building their own business. Life Capital may later generate Bohdan, Dmytro, and Nastya's first income, when they start providing paid financial literacy training for adults.
Another significant and ambitious goal of this small team is to participate in the Life Capital tournament in Ukraine, to break the Guinness World Record for the largest number of players of the game.
“I think this project has changed all of us. I have become more organized, for sure. My family and I started to put money aside to have a financial cushion,” says Dmytro and he adds that he dreams of introducing financial literacy lessons across the country. “I think if all schoolchildren understood how to manage their budgets, and how to invest, it could have a good impact on the economy of the whole country.”