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Pint-Size Stock Pickers

Students at this school have a vested interest in the market.

Long division or long stock position? both are part of the curriculum at Chicago's Ariel Community Academy, a public school sponsored by Ariel Investments, where the kids are managing real-life portfolios.

Each first-grade class is given $20,000 to seed a portfolio. At first, the money is invested on their behalf as they study the savings-and-investment curriculum, a joint project of Ariel Investments and Nuveen Investments.

Finance classes start with counting coins. By sixth grade, students take more control of their portfolio.

Teacher Connie Moran says students usually choose to invest in names they recognize -- Nike, Target, McDonald's. And yes, their investments are down just like yours. Between March 31, 2008, and March 31, 2009, class portfolios fell an average of about 40%.

"They're no different than other investors; they're not happy with the loss," says Moran. Academy instructors are turning those losses into lessons learned.


When each eighth-grade class graduates, the original grant is donated back to the incoming first-grade class. Half of any profits go toward a gift that the class gives the school -- students also learn about philanthropy -- and the other half is divided among the students. (The school is hoping that this year isn't the first without profits.)

When the proceeds are divvied up in August, each student can either keep the cash or invest it for college. Lessons must be sinking in, because 95% of the students choose to invest.