Agnes Scott College wins grant to teach children financial literacy through theater

Can music and theater help children better understand money and finances? That’s the question members of the Department of Creative Arts at Agnes Scott College in Decatur hope to answer through a new study.

Agnes Scott College has been awarded one of 20 National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA) research grants and officials said they will use the funds to study the effects of a musical theater production on the financial literacy of elementary school children.

Agnes Scott Theater Professor Toby Emert said he first had the idea to write and direct the money-centered musical after listening to Million Bazillion, a podcast produced by American Public Media’s Marketplace, which focuses on “raising the economic intelligence of the country,” according to the podcast’s website.

“I wanted to develop a show for young audiences that used theater to help them understand important ideas, but I hadn’t considered working on a play about money and the economy until I started listening to the podcast,” Emert said. “That could be a fun challenge, I thought—to develop a musical that teaches kids about financial concepts and instills a healthy relationship with money early on.”

Emert said he and psychology professor Bonnie Perdue have designed their study to investigate the success of the musical in conveying the key concepts about money to the audience. He said they hypothesize that arts engagement will have positive effects on children’s comprehension and that the musical presentation of the information will resonate differently and prove to be more effective than a classroom lesson about the same content.

A 2023 survey conducted by OnePoll.com of 2,000 parents showed that 82 percent of respondents think children should be taught financial literacy and money management skills in schools.

According to stateline.org, which provides analysis on trends in state policy, Georgia enacted a law requiring students to take a course in financial literacy as a graduation prerequisite. “This law will ensure that [students] learn financial literacy in our schools, like the importance of good credit and how to budget properly, so that they are better prepared for the world beyond the classroom,” stated Gov. Brian Kemp when he signed the bill in 2022.

A world-premiere workshop production of Million Bazillion: the Musical will open in the Winter Theater on the campus of Agnes Scott College, located at 141 E. College Ave. in Decatur on Feb. 22 with an 11 a.m. performance specifically for local students. Additional performances will be held on Feb. 23 at 7 p.m., on Feb. 24 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and on Feb. 25 at 2 p.m.

Emert said the show will feature a series of interrelated scenes in which four kids are learning about money and singing songs such as “Dollar Scholar.” Each song in the show heightens the information the characters—and the audience—are being taught and aims to inspire an ongoing curiosity to achieve financial literacy, according to a press release.

The play is free for Agnes Scott College students, faculty, staff as well as children 12 and younger. Tickets are $8 for the general public. For more information, visit agnesscott.edu.

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