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Budgeting in fun

Fair Oaks sixth graders plan a party, improve basic math skills

April 11, 2010
By EMILIE NELSON, Messenger staff writer

Birthdays and budgets may not have much in common, but at Fair Oaks Middle School math instructor Tammy Boeckman melded the two together.

Although none of the sixth grade students celebrated birthdays last Thursday, they had been studying budgeting in their math classes.

It was time to take the skills they'd learned, split into groups and plan a birthday extravaganza.

Article Photos

Fair Oaks Middle School sixth-graders Rebekah Henkleman, left and Kassy Bales review their budget to ensure they have enough to spend on snacks during a project based learning assignment at Party Productions.

Before heading out on a field trip to Party Productions, each group drew a budget amount for its party and were also given a checklist of items such as food, decorations and favors. This laid the groundwork for what they could spend and groups could also use items from their homes.

"The driving question behind this was 'how would you plan an awesome party?'" said Boeckman.

One group - Cole Johnson, Trace Frakes, Jaymin Love and Devin Summers - selected a sports theme for their birthday party. With a $100 budget, they were able to purchase candy, sports-themed party signs and decorations, party favors, and a football shaped pinata.

The grand total was $35.35 leaving the group plenty to spend on food and cake.

Thanks to Johnson, the group also had the benefit of getting an inflatable toy called "The Bouncy Thing" for free. Johnson's parents own it, and rent it out for parties. Without that connection, the toy could have placed the group over its budget.

"We've got the bouncy thing for free, so we still had $100 to spend," said Johnson.

In another group, Sadie Anderson, Natalie Cravens, Rachel Rethwisch and Gabby Constable knew they'd have to watch their spending since they drew a $75 budget.

Looking to have a "wacky and wild" themed party they priced beads and hair paint, but knew they could also use several things they already owned, such as colorful clothes to wear, a Wii game system and a disco ball, to save money for food and drinks.

Another group of girls working with Boeckman planned a tropical-themed slumber party. The over-night element meant they had to save a little more of their $125 budget for food.

"With an overnight, they know they have the expense of food to feed their guests twice," said Boeckman.

Even with a budget of $150, students Kassy Bales and Rebekah Henkleman had to decide what they could put back to save some money.

"We only have $3 left, and we don't have our food yet," said Bales.

They decided they didn't really need the balloons, and that they could use plates, silverware and napkins from home.

The project taught some students how much party items can cost.

"We didn't know how much cake and pizza really cost," said Summers.

The party planning project is part of a new project-based learning program used at Fair Oaks.

Contact Emilie Nelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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