Saturday, October 29, 2005

CASET Conference at the Federal Reserve, San Francisco

Once again I attended a conference that made me love the job that I'm doing and gave me wonderful tools to accomplish the task at hand, teaching Economics.

The early 3:45 rise time wasn't as bad as you might think. I normally get up around 5:15, and on this day I had a couple of things going for me. First, it was Friday. Second, I was excited to get more information from this organization. The organization is the California Association of School Economics Teachers (CASET), based at California State University-San Bernadino, and it is now my favorite organization by far. Hell, I'm beginning to like Econ better than Government!
The departure time was 4:45 from my humble dwelling in Ukiah. I plugged in my mobile VCR/TV combo and listen to Thursday's "Imus in the Morning" while I cruised down to Larkspur. Of course, it was Friday that the rainy season decided to set in. So I drove in the rain from Ukiah to Petaluma, a little over an hour in length. It was a steady rain, so the road was soaked and the trucks on the road succeeded in making the spray constantly end up on my windshield. Mix in a super slick road because of the first rain and you have a little driving adventure.

I made the 6:40 Larkspur-San Francisco ferry with ease. Yet again, I love taking the ferry. The ride is smooth and, even though all the seats were full, quiet. Once we got within about 5 minutes of the Ferry Building, I wandered topside and took in the view. It was one of those moments where a few of use went outside and just looked in silence at the dawn rising over Treasure Island and the Bay Bridge. No one said a word, they just looked and smiled. I smiled even more when I got off the boat and made my way to Noah's for a bagel, and Peete's for a coffee.

The Federal Reserve is a block away from the Ferry Building, making it very convenient. I'd never been to the FED, so I was very interested on how impressive they would make the place. First of all, they don't screw around at all. All the conference members had been checked prior to our arrival for anything that might make us questionable. When we got there, we were given a security badge with a microchip in it. We were not to remove that badge for any reason at all. In fact, we were never to go anywhere in the FED without escort. That badge not only got you into the FED, it was the only way to get out. You had to use the badge to activate the outgoing doors to leave. If you didn't, the multiple security guys would give you very stern looks and lots of questions. Finally, our bags went through an x-ray machine and we walked through a metal detector. Once again, the FED was not messing around.

The conference itself was broken up into some short introductions, 3 workshops, lunch, and a tour of the FED.

The Introductions were short and sweet, but the main attention was outside of the doors at the Economics vendors trying to show off books. Some were very pleasant, others made used car salesmen seem timid. I decided to look at the different texts and inquire about International Relations textbooks, something that many of the companies are starting to make standard. The best vendor, and the one that received the least attention, was from the Buck Institute. I have a link to the right and I highly recommend their material.

My first workshop was about the Stock Market Simulation and the Capital Market Simulation done by California State Universities here in the Golden State. While the Stock Market Sim is very interesting and nice because of the competition, it costs $11 per group. The Capital Market Simulation was very complex. In essence, it is a simulation that makes students investigate Economic Indicators and to make substantial recommendations to the FED in the form of an essay, a Powerpoint, and a presentation. This was demonstrated to us by four students who could work for CNBC right now with the detail and knowledge exhibited in their demonstration. I would love to do the Capital Market sim, but again cost is a factor. The second problem is that I might be able to pull off a few kids understanding that detailed of a view of Macroeconomics, but it would leave many totally baffled. I found out that the four demonstrators came from a magnet school that focuses on Math, and that they were currently in college at USC, UC San Deigo, and two from Cal. Essentially, the coursework will have to be A.P. and the students are going to have to be very dedicated to Economics. We are not quite there yet.

The second workshop was much better for my Intro level students, and probably for my college prep as well. It was called Money Wise Teen and it used Personal Finance to teach the Economics Standards portion of the class. The example was fun, but more important it was very obvious that it was meeting content standards while at the same time connecting students to very relevant situations. There is currently no paperwork up yet, but the video's they use are at Moneywiseteen.org. Check them out.

The third workshop was a presentation from the Federal Reserve. My current FED video is like the song "I Like Traffic Lights" by Monty Pyton, eventually you went to 187 the television screen. The new FED video is only 16 minutes long, and does a very nice job explaining the job of the Federal Reserve by recounting the FED's response to September 11, 2001. There is also curriculum that is very detailed and interesting, plus available powerpoints in the future.

Lunch was elegant. We ate in a conference room that overlooked the skyscrapers of San Francisco and were treated to organic salads and some excellent chicken with fresh greens. To top it off, cheesecake topped with raspberrys, strawberrys and kiwi. Simply put, we were treated like professionals, which was nice. The whole set up was like a professional conference, which made it all the more worth attending. They didn't skimp on anything, including lunch.

The tour was interesting and I recommend it for the kids. You can go to the San Francisco Federal Reserve Education Website and reserve a tour for a class. The tours are about 90 minutes and they also do a Personal Finance interact lesson afterwards that lasts 45 minutes. The tour is interesting enough to keep them involved, and short enough to not let the trip be bogged down. The money display is really fascinating.

The way home was rainy from Novato to Santa Rosa, and a trip that usually takes 40 minutes ended up being 100 minutes due to traffic and whatnot. However, if you are an Econ teacher, I highly recommend CASET.
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