If you think kids today are really in the know, well, you don’t know the half of it. Not only are they learning reading, writing and ‘rhithmatic in school, they’re learning how money makes the world go around.

Ten years ago, the only money talk you’d have heard in school would have been about making change. And while that’s still on the agenda, it almost takes a backseat to learning about the purchasing power of the almighty dollar.

Today’s class is about making donuts on an assembly line. Each of the second graders at Devonshire Elementary School in Des Plaines is assigned a job. And then there’s a competition to see how many donuts the assembly line can make in a minute.

It’s just another day in the life of ordinary second graders who are learning about jobs and money. And it isn’t always fun.

“Like some jobs, they’re hard,” says Inga Majwska, a student.

These kids already understand that when they get older, they’ll need jobs to earn money and help pay the bills.

“We’re seeing the importance of kids understanding the world of work. Managing their money. It’s an issue with adults, so I think we clearly want to rectify that when kids are younger,” says Sandy Daffe, Junior Achievement.

Which is why dozens of non-profit organizations nationwide are teaming up with financial corporations to fund financial literacy programs for kids starting in elementary school.

“We work with money all year round. They earn money for doing various things at school and we actually have a second grade store that they can use their money to purchase things,” says Pat Daukus, teacher.

Of course, spending money doesn’t seem to be a problem for most kids. But these kids are learning the value of saving.

Ilyce: “What do you do with your money?”

“Save it for video games, stuff that I want to get,” says Christian Kallio, a student. “I save it for our trip to Paris or Poland,” Inga says.

“I think, for the most part, they know what money can do. To buy things they want and need,” says Luying Li, HSBC.

All this financial education is a big change from the class curriculum even 10 years ago. Today…

“Teachers are happily opening their classes to have the business folks come in and teach the economics of life in their classroom,” Daffe says.

But it’s going to take time to teach this generation of kids the value of being money smart — and hopefully keep them out of debt in the future.

“This problem didn’t occur in 5 years and it’s not going to be resolved in 5 years. This must be a continuous process,” says Donna Funk, HSBC.

If your kids aren’t getting enough money education in school, you might want to try a little homework.

Copyright 2005, WGN-TV