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WALL STREET, BEWARE Winning 5th-grade financial wizards more than double initial investment SOUTHWEST -- Mount Airy * Woodbine * Taylorsville * Winfield


They invested in things fifth-graders like -- tennis shoes, comic books, hamburgers and motorcycles. And together Scott, Jason, LeAnn and Bernard became financial wizards, raking in more than $100,000 buying and selling stocks and more than xTC doubling their initial investment.

"If only it were real money, I'd buy a motorcycle," sighed Bernard Michaels, one of about 100 fifth-graders at Twin Ridge Elementary School who played The Stock Market Game in teams of four.

Bernard and his teammates didn't earn any real money, but they did win first place among elementary schools in Maryland. They garnered third place among the nearly 600 schools, including high schools and middle schools, participating in the game.

"I think one of the reasons this group did so well was because they invested in things they know and like, sneakers and fast-food companies," said Jean Eagleson, acting assistant principal and a fifth-grade teacher at the Mount Airy school. "These things are popular at the moment and are successful."

The Stock Market Game simulates the world of financial investment. Schools throughout Carroll and Frederick counties participated, educators said. Twin Ridge Elementary is in the Frederick County section of Mount Airy.

The game's purpose is to provide "an interesting and motivating device" for learning about economics, financial markets and the stock market, according to the Securities Industry Foundation for Economic Education, which sponsors the game in the United States and Canada.

During the 10-week program, each team of students is given an imaginary $100,000 to invest, Ms. Eagleson said. Each team's goal is to take that initial $100,000, invest in the stock market and make as much money as possible, she said.

Each Thursday, students at Twin Ridge -- open only since fall -- reviewed their financial portfolios, studied the New York Stock Exchange or the American Stock Exchange listings in local newspapers and then bought and sold stocks -- all during math class, Ms. Eagleson said.

The winning Twin Ridge Elementary School team made $116,018 on its initial $100,000 investment, Ms. Eagleson said.

The Stock Market Game Processing Center at Washington College in Chestertown kept tabs on how each team of four students was doing and issued rankings each week.

"This team always did pretty well," Ms. Eagleson said. "They ranked pretty close to the top throughout the game. One week they were fourth, but I don't think they ever expected to win."

Ms. Eagleson said the students, who called their team "The Lightning Bolts," will be honored before the Maryland Board of Education on June 30. They will receive awards, certificates and T-shirts.

There's no secret to their success, 11-year-old Scott Holt said. He said the team -- which also included LeAnn Windsor -- worked together and "invested in things that would make a lot of money."

Their stocks of choice were Nike, Reebok, Harley and Marvel.

"We picked things we like," Scott said.

The game was a learning experience for both students and teachers.

"We learned together," Ms. Eagleson said. "I never knew how to read a stock page. It's definitely something we're going to do again next year. It was an extremely valuable experience."

Ms. Eagleson said she chose to have the school participate because it was a good opportunity for fifth-grade students who are learning economics in math classes to learn a little bit about the real world of investment.

"It showed them how the market really functions," she said. "And it helped with their math skills. They had to work with percentages, decimals and fractions."

At first glance, students said, the game sounded boring.

"It sounded like work to me," 10-year-old Bernard said. "But we made it all the way through and we made some money."

Yesterday, the budding stock brokers were still marveling at their win.

"We really didn't believe we won," 10-year-old Jason Brown said. "When we heard the number of the winning team, we thought someone else won. Our teacher told us we won."

Their parents haven't picked up on their financial wizardry yet, students said.

"Nope, my mom and dad don't know anything about the stock market," Jason said.

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