LINWOOD — Some students at Belhaven Middle School are opting to forgo recess to grow their stock portfolios thanks to the Stock Market Game and fifth-grade teacher Bonnie Marino and parent volunteer Diana Gurwicz.

The Stock Market Game is part of a larger Belhaven initiative called Explorations, according to Principal Susan Speirs. During recess, students have the option of participating in teacher-led enhancements, of which the game is one.

The game started in the fall with a few students in fifth and sixth grades, but the response was so positive that the students have outgrown Marino’s (no relation to the reporter) classroom and they meet in the library. During one session, the students ate lunch while peppering Gurwicz with questions about managing risk, short sales, price/earnings ratios, dividends, yield and margin accounts, the capital market and world events that can impact the stock market.

The Stock Market Game has been around since the late 1970s and is designed to introduce students to the world of economics, investing and personal finance. More than 600,000 students take part in the game each year across all 50 states annually, according to stockmarketgame.org.

The students kick off their investments with a virtual bankroll of $100,000. They are challenged to develop a successful portfolio. The students work in teams and investigate and gather data on possible investments. Gurwicz said that while the investment funds are virtual, the students are buying and selling real-world stock and bonds and trying to understand the value and drawbacks of taking risks.

The students took to the airwaves to share their knowledge on RTV, Belhaven’s internal station that broadcasts daily to classrooms, with daily stock tips.

Sixth-grader Krishna Bansal is working solo on the game and said it has become something he and his family enjoy talking about at home.

While the portfolios are strictly virtual and no real money is at risk, the information on how to invest in the stock market introduces students to the rewards and risks inherent in the financial world.

“They learned how to look at the world in new and different ways. They observed the importance of economics to our world and saw how important financial literacy is to living and prospering in the future,” Gurwicz said.

The parent volunteer said that while some of the students might consider pursuing a future in finance, the takeaway for the majority of the kids is a better understanding of supply and demand and the market forces that shape the human experience.

“It is really neat to have the latest iPhone, but to be savvy enough to compare actual sales results to analyst expectations to determine whether or not the new product was actually a success, well that is not your average 11- or 12-year-old,” said Gurwicz. “And they want more — more insights, more time investing, more everything. They might all get their MBAs before they begin high school.”

For the record, the best-performing stock in the students' portfolios was Amazon. Gurwicz said they followed it very closely and enjoyed the news as Amazon entered new markets and capitalized on its distribution network. Over the course of the game, Amazon stock went from $807 to $901 a share. The Belhaven team finished 45th out of 150 teams, which Gurwicz said was a great finish considering most of the teams they were competing against were from high schools.

Speirs said she is pleased to have a strong core of teachers and volunteers who are giving students a range of options during the school's explorations period, including yoga, science lab experiments, math lab, writing lab, homework help, gym games, wood working, advanced band and arts and crafts.

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Contact Suzanne Marino at marino@catamaranmedia.com