The classrooms of Moore Elementary School may be a long way from Wall Street, but fifth-grader Kaya Pietryka still felt an adrenaline rush when she started buying and trading imaginary stocks during her class’s Stock Market Challenge. Everything could change in a minute, she soon learned, and nothing was guaranteed.
“It was fun because of the adrenaline rush [and] seeing that all my stocks could just drop,” the Moore Township student says. “It was also hard to find stocks that are doing very well in the market.”
However, Kaya, an avid student of math and business, picked up on the tricks of the trade rather quickly.
“I learned that you really need to hunt for that one really good stock and look at it for maybe a few days,” she adds.
It was this determination that led to Kaya winning the Statewide Elementary School Division of the Stock Market Challenge, held by the Pennsylvania Council on Financial Literacy and sponsored by Fidelity Bank. Out of all of the participating elementary school students in the state, she had the highest return on investments.
During the challenge, Kaya and her peers had access to a real-time, web-based stock simulation game. They watched the stocks, bought, sold, and learned the real-life value of investing early and thoughtfully. It’s an authentic platform with all of the info real investors on real trading sites have access to.
This is the third year that Kaya’s teacher Chris Hoenscheid and his students have participated in the challenge. The benefits, explains Hoenscheid, are endless.
“I believe that it’s so important for students to develop financial literacy beginning at an early age,” he says.
But students learn more than just financial literacy. They also start to understand the importance of critical thinking. After all, one must think carefully before they decide whether they want to buy or sell their investments. It’s an activity students look forward to every year.
Adds Hoenscheid, “I think they enjoy studying the data, looking at the charts and analyst ratings, and making the decisions on their own.”
Another thing students enjoy? Seeing just how big of a reward one little investment can make.
“When I introduce the competition and teach the students about what a stock is, I always use Amazon stock as one of the examples,” Hoenscheid says. “When they see that a $100 investment in Amazon in 1997 would be worth about $185,000 today, they get pretty excited.”
Learning the stock market may seem daunting to college students, let alone to elementary students, but for Kaya, it was a welcomed challenge.
“We’ve noticed that she tries more things now because the stock market has…taught her to work through tough situations,” explains Kaya’s parents, Katarzyna and Dominik Pietryka. “And [it showed her] that it is important to take risks.”
Kaya is the third student from Moore Township to win statewide. In Spring 2019, another one of Hoenscheid’s Moore Elementary students placed second in the state. In Fall 2020, one of Hoenscheid’s students at George Wolf Elementary also placed second in the state.
This experience has inspired Kaya to potentially consider a career in business or math when she grows up.
“It does seem pretty fun to make a business and try to succeed on top of all the others,” she says.
And after her amazing achievement in the Stock Exchange Challenge, her parents have no doubt that she can succeed at anything she sets out to accomplish.
“We were very proud of Kaya when she won,” they say. “We always tell her that she can do anything she puts her mind to.”