Money around the world — Part 1: Foreign currency

Learning about international money only takes a few materials and is a world of fun!

If you find yourself remembering you need an activity for your 4-H club or youth program, there are many resources available to help. Consider adding a financial literacy activity to your club meeting or event! Financial literacy is one of the most important life skills for young people to successfully live on their own, and the more that adults talk about it with youth, the easier it is for youth to understand and not fear. Here is one idea from Michigan State University Extension’s 4-H Youth Development for adding some money fun to your next session.

It can be very interesting to learn about foreign countries through looking at their money. Many countries have their own currency, and what they decide to put on their currency can tell you about their values and their culture.

Gather some pieces of foreign currency; if you don’t have any you can ask friends who travel a lot to bring back some small denominations for you. Another idea is to find pictures of the currency online, enlarge and print them (bigger than normal, so as not to misconstrue as trying to make the real thing); this is especially helpful for younger members so they can see the pictures and details more easily.

Each piece of currency will tell a story and the age of the children you are working with can determine how much of the story they want to learn. Consider how much time you want to devote to this activity; it may make sense to start the conversation at one meeting, allow some time for further research and revisit the topic at a later meeting.

For example, in Chile, the 1,000-peso bill features a historical figure from their history on the front and an important landmark on the back. You can have a general conversation with younger members about how countries depict things that are important to them on their money (impactful historical individuals and significant landscapes). With older youth, they could learn more of the specifics about Ignacio Carrera Pinto, a captain of the Chilean army during the 19th century War of the Pacific against Bolivia and Peru, or about the National Park of Torres de Paine, a world-renowned national park in Chile’s southernmost Magallanes Region.

More fun examples include South African Rand (depictions of different wild animals on one side and Nelson Mandela on the other), Canadian dollars (the Queen of England features on most bills, and there is a scene of hockey players on the $5 bill) and even U.S. dollars (see if they know who is pictured on each of our bills).

Another way to extend this lesson is to bring a world map or atlas to the meeting and have youth find the countries on the map when you show examples of their money. This can tie in well with conversations of environmental conservation, learning about specific countries or cultures, studying where their project animals originate from or reflecting on personal values and how we represent those to others.

With just a few materials, you can facilitate a rich discussion about money around the world! Youth can learn the terms of what money is called in other countries, talk about values and how countries depict things that are important to them, and identify where those countries are on a map. For more ideas to extend learning about money around the world, make sure to read the other articles in this series:

Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development help to prepare young people for successful futures. As a result of career exploration and workforce preparation activities, thousands of Michigan youth are better equipped to make important decisions about their professional future, ready to contribute to the workforce and able to take fiscal responsibility in their personal lives.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth career preparation, money management and entrepreneurship programs, read the 2016 Impact Report: “Preparing Michigan Youth for Future Employment.”

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