Published Online: June 11, 1997

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Learning the business

If you're looking for some financial advice, you might want to call Onaway Elementary School in Shaker Heights, Ohio. A group of 3rd and 4th graders in the Cleveland suburb earned an 18 percent return on their investment in the stock market over a five-week term, giving them enough money to adopt a giraffe at the city zoo.

Thirteen students were introduced to the ins and outs of Wall Street as part of a six-week academic program called Enrichment Clusters. The Wall Street program was one of 15 clusters offered to 3rd and 4th graders by the school.

Pat and Miles Henderson, the parents of one group member and volunteer advisers, lent the group $2,000 to invest.

"We wanted the students to be serious about the stock market," Pat Henderson said. "It's one thing to play a stock market game and another to deal with something tangible."

The students decided to buy 14 shares of Disney stock and seven shares of IBM stock, earning them $360.

"Investing in the market was fun," said 4th grader Earl White, who has already picked up the lingo of Wall Street. "We looked at information like P-E ratios"--meaning price-to-earnings--"and earnings per share."

The students used $350 of their earnings to adopt a giraffe--the school's mascot--at the Cleveland Metropark Zoo.

The remaining $10 was spent on a party to celebrate the students' accomplishment.

The students of Barnstable Grade Five School in Hyannis, Mass., meanwhile, have found that it pays to treat business like a game.

A board game they invented called the Main Street Learning Game has grossed $30,000 this spring in support of their school.

Two years ago, students and school officials wanted to find a way to raise money, and, after a brainstorming session with community business leaders, they decided on a board game based on the 5th grade curriculum.

With the help of a board of directors, the students formed the Main Street Learning Corp. The company opened an account at Cape Cod Bank and Trust with a penny donated by the bank and was able to raise capital through advertising from local businesses.

The game, which sells for $20, has done so well that the Main Street Learning Corp. is producing a coloring book that will be ready for sale this week.

--LAURIE HATFIELD & KAREN ABERCROMBIE

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