Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

Mary Lynch fifth graders learn skills through the stock market


John Verser

The top five raffle ticket sellers aid teacher Laurie Janicek in drawing names for raffle items Friday afternoon in the Mary Lynch Elementary School gym. Pictured, from left, are: Grace Murdoch, Cortney Holt, Chantel Mason, Thomas Muldoon, Katie Heeg and Janicek. For their efforts, the five will get to attend the state competition in Lincoln.

Bears and bulls are popular animals among fifth grade students at Mary Lynch Elementary School in Kimball.

The animals, which also double as stock market terms for bad and good markets, are just some of the things the students learn as part of the stock market competition sponsored by the Nebraska Economics Council.

The school is in its fifth year in the competition, and has done quite well. Mary Lynch teams have received 15 first, second or third place trophies in their first four years in the competition.

This fall, the three-member team of Azael Flores, West Nelson and Patrick Bruner took second place among all elementary school teams statewide. In the spring competition, teams from Mary Lynch are also faring well. Additional teams could qualify for state. The top three teams in both the fall and spring competitions qualify for the state competition to be held in Lincoln this April.

"I have 20 teams in the competition in the state. Right now we're sitting first, second, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth," said fifth grade teacher Laurie Janicek. "We have a good chance of possibly three more teams making it to state."

Each team is given $100,000 in "fake" money to "invest" in the stock market. The teams must invest in at least five companies or mutual funds.

The teams watch their stocks and decide when to buy or sell.

"They watch and see how their stocks are going," Janicek said. "The teams that are doing well right now sold their Netflix (stock), because it made over $125 in the first four weeks. They keep saying, 'Buy low, sell high.'"

Some of the stocks that have done the best for Mary Lynch teams include Netflix, Under Armor and Zillow.

A computerized system keeps track of all the competitors throughout the state. The rankings are based on the percentage of money made.

"The contest itself figures out their percentage, figures out how much money they've made on their shares, and it comes up with a percentage of how much they've gained on their money," Janicek said. "The one group that's in first right now, they're at a margin of 8 percent. So they've been making an 8 percent return on their money. The state tells me who's in the top three."

The list is updated daily, which keeps it fun for the students.

"Every day, it's posted in my room where their team is sitting and where they're at. Mrs. (Carma) Weisbrook's kids come running in to see where they're at," Janicek said. "We could end up taking three more teams in the spring competition."

The competition is also as close to real life as possible.

"It's worked on a computerized system that's just like if you're buying it for the actual stock yourself, so it's all percentages and they figure the fees for everybody and the interest, so it's all figured in there and they keep an eye on it," Janicek said.

Besides having fun, Janicek said the students are learning many skills that can be beneficial to them throughout life.

"They're learning math skills, they're learning economics, they're learning different skills that they need in every day life," she said.

John Verser

Azael Flores, left, and West Nelson were part of a three-person Mary Lynch team that finished second in the state among elementary teams in the stock market competition. They will attend the state competition in Lincoln this April. Patrick Bruner (not pictured) is also a member of the team that will attend state.

In addition to the team of Flores, Nelson and Bruner, at least five other Mary Lynch students will get to attend the state competition. The other five that were selected were the top five sellers in a raffle to raise funds for the trip and for other items used to participate in the program. Katie Heeg sold $410 in raffle tickets and was the top seller for the school. The other four include Thomas Muldoon (second place), Chantel Mason (third place), Cortney Holt (fourth place) and Grace Murdoch (fifth place). Overall, the fifth graders sold $2,260 in raffle tickets.

Janicek said a different method is chosen each year on how students are chosen to go to state.

"They didn't know until (Friday) if they got to go or not, so it makes it interesting. They work hard at it," she said.

The two-day trip to Lincoln this April for the state competition includes a variety of events. In addition to the competition itself, the students tour Memorial Stadium and the state capitol. The visit sometimes includes a tour of Morrill Hall, a natural history museum.

While there for the competition, the students must act professional, Janicek said.

"They have to be dressed professionally, because we're sitting with bankers, lawyers, investors. We have these big wigs sitting with us. When they get up there, they're all dressed nice," she said.

"It makes for a very long two days, but it's a very enjoyable and educational experience," Janicek added.


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