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Two kids are holding worksheets as they sit at a table in front of a laptop. The boy cuts his paper. In the corner is a COVID-19 update graphic.
Hands on Banking for Youth is a free digital learning center for elementary, middle, and high school students to explore and practice money skills.
Photo: Brenda Wilson
Financial Health
May 28, 2020

Providing virtual financial education for families and educators

As families and educators are adjusting to school closures and using virtual education amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many are turning to Hands on Banking®, Wells Fargo’s free, noncommercial online learning program.

Like many parents, Brenda Wilson of Tuckasegee, North Carolina, is adapting to a new way of life. As the mother of 9-year-old twins Aiden and Addison, Wilson, who works full time for the State of North Carolina, has needed to take two days off a week to help her children with their schoolwork now that their education is being provided virtually. Wilson recently learned about Hands on Banking, Wells Fargo’s free, noncommercial online learning program, and said it helps in times like this.

“It’s very convenient that these resources and lessons are online,” Wilson said. “You don’t have to go anywhere and can do it on your kids’ schedule. For a working parent, that’s convenient. We can do it at eight o’clock at night if we want.”

As families and educators are adjusting to school closures and using virtual education amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many are turning to Hands on Banking for Youth, a free digital learning center for elementary, middle, and high school students to explore and practice money skills. Families and educators can access the interactive website, which does not include any endorsements or advertising, from any type of device, in both English and Spanish. Families can explore resources to learn together and start important money conversations helping to build positive financial habits. Educators looking for distance-learning activities can access resources and toolkits that align with educational standards for English language arts and mathematics for kindergarten through 12th grade.  

“Parents are currently in a unique position where they’re educating their kids and want to know what tools exist, and teachers are looking for virtual resources for their students and parents,” said Darlene Goins, head of Financial Health Philanthropy for Wells Fargo. “As everyone is adjusting to a ‘new norm,’ we think it’s great time for parents to talk to their kids about money — and for educators and students to use these resources. What’s unique about the toolkit is we have two activities per lesson and multiple lessons per age group, so there’s a lot of interactivity.”

Under the three sections — students, educators, and families — resources are then organized by age group. For example, for fourth and fifth graders, there are videos, interactive exercises, and worksheets prompting parents to talk with their kids about their first job and how to give back, and for high school students, there are lessons on topics like insurance and budgeting. 

Resources for families

Wilson’s children help with chores on the family farm to earn money, and when they had earned $50, they were ready to spend it. Wilson told them another option would be to open a savings account and use the money saved to have some extra spending money for a family vacation to Hawaii.

“The biggest thing I want them to learn about is savings, especially in a pandemic,” Wilson said. “I’m trying to set them up so they’re never living paycheck to paycheck, so savings is my focus — and letting them make choices. All of us have made terrible financial choices by buying things you want and don’t necessarily need. I would rather them learn about that at 9 with small purchases.”

A girl stands in front of the counter inside a bank. She waves to the camera. Behind her is a woman, wearing a face mask, who also waves to the camera.
Addison Wilson visits Wells Fargo’s Sylva, North Carolina, branch and meets teller Carol Rollins.
Photo: Lena Wolfe

At a recent trip to a local branch in Sylva, North Carolina, with their mother, Aiden and Addison decided to open savings accounts. While there, teller Leesha Rollar showed the children how to write a deposit slip and use a check register, and Branch Manager Lena Wolfe printed out Hands on Banking lessons for their age group about budgeting and savings, as well as certificates for when they complete the lessons. She also showed them how to find the resources online.

 

“As I met with them, a light bulb went off, and I thought, ‘This would be a great time for Hands on Banking,’” said Wolfe, who has presented the money management curriculum in the past at local schools and churches. “COVID-19 has impacted so many people, and savings is a huge deal. Given the times we’re in, I was thinking about how impactful it would be to be introduced to this at a young age. These are life skills everyone needs to know, and I am convinced financial success starts at a young age. It’s our job to provide them with these resources.”

A boy smiles at the camera as he reaches up to a bank counter with what looks like a check. A woman behind the counter and wearing a face mask also looks at the camera.
Teller Carol Rollins helps Aiden Wilson as he visits Wells Fargo’s Sylva, North Carolina, branch.
Photo: Lena Wolfe

The Wilson family has already used Hands on Banking during their math lessons. “We’re trying to get them to understand the value of currency, and we are teaching them about what essentially debit and credit are,” Wilson said. “We teach them, ‘If you buy this, how much is left in your bank account?’ The fact that this is online interests my kids even more, and it’s not just a math lesson. It’s computer-based learning, and it helps them with their reading.”

Resources for educators

Teachers across North Carolina and the country are also accessing the Hands on Banking resources. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the North Carolina Business Committee for Education, which works closely with the state’s Department of Public Instruction, was developing a website, The Navigator, to bring together members of the business, education, and workforce development communities for opportunities like guest speakers and apprenticeships. When schools began to close in March 2020, the nonprofit expedited its efforts. One of the resources the nonprofit is now providing for educators across North Carolina is Hands on Banking.

“We’re going to have a lot of changes as a result of this pandemic that will be with us forever.” — Caroline Sullivan, executive director of North Carolina Business Committee for Education

“One of the things I like about Hands on Banking is that it’s separated by elementary school, middle school, and high school resources,” said Morgan Crawford, a former educator who now works for the nonprofit. “It’s laid out well, and it relates to our educational standards. Teachers love when they can easily align resources to the standards because they have to do that anyway.”

The North Carolina Business Committee for Education reached out to 300 teachers in early April, and within days had heard back from about a third of them who said they were looking for ways to engage virtually with their students, said Caroline Sullivan, executive director of the nonprofit. Since then, the group has been trying to have as many resources as possible, and Sullivan said it appreciates having Hands on Banking.

“We’re going to have a lot of changes as a result of this pandemic that will be with us forever,” Sullivan said. “Educators are having to figure out how to use these resources, and it’s a good opportunity for companies like Wells Fargo to connect with them.”

Wells Fargo responds to COVID-19 graphic with photo of branch on right

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