By Kiran Krishnamurthy, Corporate Communications
Their fingers skating across the vertical touch screen at The Fed Experience’s market game, Fairfield Middle School students made quick choices about buying and selling.
“This bike costs $237…” said a boy as the game’s blue lights glowed in front of him.
“A cell phone’s only $99,” said a girl, while prices scrolled along the ticker above them.
Lessons, such as this one in supply and demand, were not lost on their teacher, Nancy Pierpont. “I love it,” said the social studies teacher, who led the recent field trip for her Richmond seventh-grade students. “It’s so informative and captures what we’re doing in the classroom.”
The three dozen Fairfield Middle students and their teachers are among more than 11,000 people to visit The Fed Experience since the exhibit opened to the public last July. Visitors range from individuals from local corporations to community college students to German exchange students to local school children to retirees from our Bank and elsewhere. The interactive exhibit, which lets visitors explore their connection to the economy, is free and open to the public.
“Our visitorship has been very diverse,” said Melanie Rose, senior manager of our Bank’s Economic Education program. “The Fed Experience has allowed us to step outside of our traditional economic education audiences.”
Students make up about 25 percent of visitors and are the primary audience. The Fed Experience was designed especially for middle school students and connects to Virginia’s Standards of Learning. The exhibit’s material also aligns with national learning standards.
The Fed Experience offers a wealth of information in different formats — audio, video, text, historical artifacts and interactive games — and allows visitors to explore, through guided or self-guided tours, the 6,000-square-foot exhibit in our lobby.
“It’s layered and people experience it differently,” said Angie Gimby, The Fed Experience’s exhibit specialist. “Kids love getting their pictures taken and watching them appear on the wall. They love the games — they dive right in. A lot of the adults like to read everything. They like the videos — they spend a lot of time in the mezzanine watching the [historical] videos.”
“And of course everyone loves the cash and the gold bar!” she said.
Visitors have offered positive feedback about their experiences. Pierpont said the visit related to students on their terms and reinforced what they had discussed in class. She said the approaches that the exhibit takes — for example, combining the ‘wow’ of the cash display and showing what money could buy in the past compared with today — help bring the economy to life for her students. “We’re studying inflation and economics basics, so this is a great way to show that,” she said.
Before and after their visits, teachers are encouraged to use classroom materials available on thefedexperience.org and www.richmondfed.org websites, such as “In Plain English,” information that includes a booklet, DVD and other activities. Lessons also are provided in our Bank’s Economic Education lab for students while they’re here. The lessons focus on areas such as Federal Reserve functions; how individual buying and selling decisions foster innovation, encourage competition, and influence prices, markets and the U.S. standard of living; and the effects of inflation and deflation on the standard of living.
During her visit, Kiarra Donithan, 13, said she learned more about the relationship between choices and the economy. “You see how money works. You can spend it or you can save it. It’s up to you — what you want and what you need,” she said.
From students to community groups to legislators and even new employees, the exhibit helps explain our Bank and the Federal Reserve — who we are, what we do and how we make a difference in our communities.
“The Fed Experience is such an inviting and engaging way to tell our story to our communities and improve financial literacy, especially as students reach the age where they see themselves as part of the economy,” said Senior Vice President Matt Martin, who leads our Outreach function.
The first year also has seen praise for The Fed Experience. The grand opening last July drew media coverage in regional newspapers, such as the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and national and international outlets, such as Bloomberg, Reuters and Dow Jones. In December the exhibit was chosen as a “Building of America Award” project to be a featured Gold Medal Winner on the Building of America Network’s home page this winter. In May the Public Relations Society of Virginia’s Richmond chapter recognized Fed Experience press materials with a Capital Award of Merit.
Kim Zeuli, vice president for Community Development and Economic Education, said recently that The Fed Experience continues to grow. “We’ve tapped maybe 50 percent or less of the potential,” she said. “The flexibility and opportunities have surprised me. And we’re just getting started with it.”