Skip To Main Content

Utility Container



Mobile Menu Trigger (container)

Search Trigger (container)

Aspen's Blog

Being Financially Responsible in 2018

At the end of each year, most of us spend some time reflecting on who we were when the year began, and who we are as it comes to an end. And if we're honest with ourselves, we take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly. And if we're really honest, we spend some time reflecting on our finances.

As we started writing the AEI curriculum, we understood that this was about more than just our students. Our teachers and parents would need to be all-in as well. We also knew that this would be a difficult task because money is a sensitive, personal subject. So much so that finances are the second least talked about topic within families behind sex. From all the research I've done on the topic, parents fear they don't know enough about finances themselves to share with their kiddos, and the same goes for teachers. Most elementary and secondary teachers did not go to school to teach financial education.

So we started out by offering our teachers some support in the financial world so they could not only feel more confident professionally on the topic, but personally. This school year we offered each of our faculty and staff members an opportunity to meet with financial advisor Wendi Strom. The response was overwhelming! Every slot was filled within a day's time, and we added more time slots so even more faculty and staff could have a chance to meet with her. Her initial visit was free, and she spent, on average, about an hour with each person.

One teacher said, "It went really well and was well worth our time. She gave us some action steps to work on, along with some resources and contacts. She set us up with someone who can help us with paying off student loans; we are meeting with that person this week. I was waiting for her plug on wanting our business, but that never happened, which was great. She emailed us a detailed synopsis of our meeting, which was also great. I don't have anyone to compare her to, but I'd recommend her! My wife also really appreciated that she works specifically with women and gave us referrals to females in her network."

Another noted, "I would highly recommend it. Very helpful. No pressure for further services. Based on our meeting we determined we need to update our living will - that was our first priority. She also gave us some ideas to maximize on our college savings plan. She gave us some great referrals for a few things we had questions on, too."

And another stated, "Wendi was amazing!!! She was super helpful, compassionate, honest, real and genuine. She followed up with resources, a plan, helpful guidance and future suggestions."

So many Aspen staff members have shared how great it was to sit down and put some work in on themselves and their families. They've shared with me that they are setting some financial goals and resolutions for 2018, which is incredibly inspiring and awesome!

So, as we reflect on where we are headed in 2018, I offer you an opportunity to reflect on your personal finances, share what's appropriate with your children and inspire them to start taking an active role in your family. There is no better time than now to start.

Click here for more information on how to set up a meeting with Wendi Strom.

Read more about Being Financially Responsible in 2018
The Entrepreneurial Spirit at Aspen Academy

If you walk into a classroom during Money Monday or Finance Friday over the course of the next few weeks, you'll witness the hustle and bustle of creative thinkers, planners and doers in action. It might look like chaos and sound like noise, but these are innovators at work! Developing a business isn't always clean or quiet. It can get messy and loud and feel a little out of control – that's just the excitement of ideas permeating the room.

Many of you know what it's like to bring a business from a thought to a thing. Many of you know what it's like to feel the excitement of creating something from nothing. Our students are in that space right now. What better time to show them what's possible than now! Denver offers so many different opportunities for entrepreneurs and start-up businesses to forecast growth in their businesses by offering spaces to sell.

Avanti Food and Beverage, located in the LoHi area, is a prime example of this. Avanti houses seven eateries under one roof, each separately owned and each signed to short-term leases of various lengths to encourage turnover and variety. It also encourages entrepreneurs to test their potential restaurant concepts to see if people are interested in what they are selling before making the huge leap, and investment, into a standalone restaurant.

The Denver Flea, the Horseshoe Market, YouthBiz Marketplace and TheBigWonderful are a few places to get inspired with your entrepreneurial ideas, and if nothing else, you can help support other small businesses. I encourage you to take your kids to these events, let them ask questions and get inspired by other entrepreneurs. Not to mention, these are super fun events!

Click here to learn more.

Read more about The Entrepreneurial Spirit at Aspen Academy
Aspen Academy Lower STEAM Lab

The Lower School STEAM Lab bursts with excited children who are coding a robot named Dash. It's just one of many engaging science, technology, engineering, art and math activities Kelsey Sullivan teaches in this incredible new learning space.

The lab is bordered with computers and materials, leaving the bulk of the room open. Kids sit on the floor watching Sullivan's instruction as she guides them step-by-step on her expectations and starting their project. Her goal for today is that by working with Dash, the kids will be learning problem-solving, collaboration, math skills and coding.

Kids can't wait to get started on the first challenge. Their task is to make Dash go around the border of a blue square of tape on the carpet. To do this, they'll need to program a sequence of moves, estimate distances and determine turn angles. Sullivan explains that yesterday's coding puzzles laid the foundation for this activity.

Each team member in the small groups has a job. The energy is contagious. They dive right into the first coding challenge.

Several challenges later, the kids get to attach a bulldozer type pusher onto their robot. For this task, they'll program Dash to pick up three LEGOs inside the square and push them to the edge.

Sounds like fun, right? It is! Kids are loving every second of it.

Sullivan teaches classes in the STEAM Lab two days a week. Classes rotate through every five weeks.

The other days, teachers can bring their classes to the lab. Since all the Lower School teachers are trained on the STEAM Lab materials, they can bring their classes any time. You'll usually see Kindergarten there on Fridays when they work with Bee Bots robots.

Teachers can also request that Sullivan help them integrate STEAM into units of study. She's been helping third grade with their unit about geographic regions, so the kids use their coding skills to show what they've learned. They'll program the robot to travel on a large map, stopping at each region to share the features of that area.

If you haven't seen the new STEAM Lab, head up the ramp and look left where the school store used to be. It's a wonderful space that already is enriching the lives of our Aspen Academy students.

Guest Blogger Melissa Taylor from

Read more about Aspen Academy Lower STEAM Lab
November is National Entrepreneurship Month!

As the students at Aspen Academy continue to create and innovate their business ideas, it's time to celebrate the month of November as National Entrepreneurship Month!

If your son or daughter has caught the entrepreneurship bug, here are several fun ways to get started!

1. AEI has developed a Kids Classifieds board near the front office at Aspen Academy!

Does your son or daughter have an old bike taking up space in the garage? Or maybe they have some skis they've outgrown? It may be time for your kids to sell some of their old "stuff."

Aspen Academy AEI is offering a safe space for our students to sell their used items.

There are a few guidelines for selling items:

a. The students are responsible for creating the classified.

b.Students must have parent permission (a parent signature on the back of the classified) to confirm they have permission to sell the item for the price requested.

c.The classified should be no larger than a 5x7 piece of paper.

d.The classified should include: a picture of the item, a description of the item, the student's name and a parent email address, and the price of the item.

e.All classifieds should be turned in to Mrs. Kruse's mailbox and once approved, they will be posted.


Ad example bike

2. Young Americans YouthBiz Holiday Marketplace is still accepting applications for young entrepreneurs to sell their products on Dec. 2 and Dec. 9. There is a $25 table rental fee, and the profits are yours! Students will have an opportunity to make some money and have hundreds of people learn about their business. Not to mention it's great experience for our kiddos to practice their pitch.


3. Have your son or daughter watch some children's business pitches for inspiration. Here are a few of my favorites:

4. Ask your son or daughter about their class business. Some questions to get you started:

a. How did your class choose the business?

b. What problem is the business solving?

c. Whom are you marketing your product/service to?

d. How are you funding your business?

e. Do you have any hesitations, fears or concerns?

f. What makes you excited about your class business?

Whatever you choose to do, find a way to celebrate the month!

Read more about November is National Entrepreneurship Month!

As our second quarter begins, the Aspen Entrepreneurial Institute (AEI) is launching into Unit 2 of the curriculum – Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Part of Aspen Academy's vision for AEI is developing an entrepreneurial mindset in our students. We know that every student who graduates from Aspen Academy won't go out and become an entrepreneur, but we do want our students to have the tools to think like one. Most of our students are part of a new generation – Generation Z. These are kids born between 1996 and 2010, and just like Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, Generation Z has a plethora of unique characteristics. Sure, some of it may feel strange to those of us who grew up in the school of hard knocks, but the reality is that time and technology have changed all of that. As the parents of this generation, it's our duty to embrace and understand who these kiddos are. A quick Google search allows us to understand where our kids are headed and what makes them different from other generations. I've gathered a few articles to help you along the way:

Read more about Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Generation Z
Experimenting with Halloween

At this point in the AEI curriculum, almost all of your children have seen or participated in the Marshmallow Experiment. The point of the original study was to measure the outcomes of children who responded to instant and delayed gratification. We use the outcomes of this experiment to discuss self-control and spending habits with the students throughout the year. It's a tangible life lesson that even kindergartners can understand. With Halloween around the corner, it's a great time to not only do a few experiments of your own to observe your children's behaviors, but also to consider discussing how what we do with our Halloween candy can fit into behaviors related to financial literacy.

Experiment #1:

Have your children sort their candy into piles and rank them favorite to least favorite. Each pile will have a different "value" associated with it. You will find that you have one of two types of kids: Type 1 eats every piece of his/her favorite candy and doesn't even think twice about it. Type 2 will eat a piece or two of the favorite candy and save the rest. Type 1 will probably get a stomachache and be upset that they don't have any of their favorites left – similar to what happens at the end of the month when you're down to your last few dollars and you're out of gas in your car. Type 2 has learned to budget (or ration) the favorite candy just like we want them to do with money eventually.

Experiment #2:

If you have two siblings or go trick-or-treating with friends, this observation opportunity can be useful. When all the trick-or-treating is finished and the kids are sorting their candy, the trading of candy will begin. As parents, it's important just to observe at first. And then, the negotiation lesson can begin – how many pieces of other types of candy will it take for your child to part with one of their favorites? Kids can also learn that candy is only worth what someone is willing to trade you for it. As your children learn these skills, which they may need some coaching around, they are also learning that someday they may need to negotiate their salary or the price of a car, or they may need to ask for a raise.

There are plenty of other lessons and money management ideas around Halloween candy:

  1. Offer your children payment for pounds of candy. For example, one pound of candy is equal to $1. Who knows, maybe they'll do a little negotiating with you on the value of a pound of candy. Be willing to budge a little, but don't over pay for the value of the candy. Some dentists will also buy back candy.
  2. Suggest donating a bag of candy to a local shelter or send it to our service men or women overseas. The most important part of this lesson is the conversation you have with your kids about donations and why providing something to someone else is important.
  3. Offer to take your kids trick-or-treating, but inform them that they will have to pay a "tax" to you. Negotiate the tax – five pieces of your favorite candy or something that is a win-win for both of you.

The conversations you have with your children are the most important lessons you can teach when it comes to money management. Halloween certainly lends itself to these lessons, we just have to take the time to listen to their questions and insert our knowledge whenever possible. Believe me, they're listening.

Read more about Experimenting with Halloween

Chuck Fischer first heard of the World Peace Game when listening to TED Radio. He knew it was perfect for Aspen Academy since it was a game where kids used their cooperation and leadership skills to successfully solve all the world's problems and create peace. Lofty goals but doable according to Fischer.

Over the past summer, the PCO paid for Fischer and Karen Skadow to attend the World Peace Game training here in Denver. The two then spent the months that followed planning this new Tuesday/Thursday Essentials class.

One of their biggest challenges was preparing the game pieces. Pieces included food processing plants, missiles, fish, nuclear weapons, UN troops, windmills, groups of refugees, solar plants, fusion plants, an aquifer, a volcano, a coral reef, space stations and airplanes. "It was a ridiculously fun creative process," grinned Fischer. He even used Aspen Academy's 3D printers to make small trucks and airplanes for the game board.

The PCO also paid to build the game board from scratch. It's an enormous structure – four 4 x 4 tiers stacked one on top of the other with enough space in between for game play and movement. (If you get a chance, stop by the lunchroom to see it. It's quite a marvel.)

On the first day of class, students walked into a board fully set up in utter chaos with 23 specific problems such as an oil spill, a volcanic eruption, a distress call from space, global warming and a nuclear power plant spill. The students became four major countries, two weather gods, arms dealers or the United Nations. All the countries began with resources and money.

To win the game, a country must solve all 23 crises and have more money than when they started.

Mid-October, students were in what Fischer calls stage 2, despair. One student recently commented, "Is this even possible?" Fischer noted that the kids have yet to think win-win and cooperate with each other. But once the kids get a taste of successful problem solving, he explained, things will shift and they'll find a flow.

"The problems are interrelated and have consequences in multiple directions," shared Fischer. "For example, here's a coral reef with ancient gold," he pointed out. "You can get the gold, but it will kill an endangered species." He added that the kids all have a crisis document with information in it to help them start to solve the problems. Like Socratic seminar, he and Skadow stay in the roles of facilitators, out of decision-making.

Each time they meet, students discuss their plans, negotiate with others and move on the game board. In one class period, a country bought missiles from the arms dealers and fired them at the Secret Empire. Direct vs. indirect hits were determined by coin flips. The direct hits got cheers from other students. (Which was ironic considering the purpose of the game.)

Not to worry. This not-so-peaceful behavior was simply part of the process. As the World Peace Game Foundation website states, "Beliefs and values will evolve or completely unravel as they begin to experience the positive impact and windows of opportunity that emerge through effective collaboration and refined communication."

Imagine just how much the World Peace Game will contribute to a child's understanding of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People as well as social justice, geography and politics.

To learn more about the World Peace Game, ask teachers Fischer or Skadow, read John Hunter's book, World Peace and Other 4th-Grade Achievements, or watch John Hunter's TED Talk.

Visit to read more of Melissa Taylor's blogs.

Read more about World Peace Game

Halloween is a great real-world opportunity to talk about money management with your children. There are so many things to spend money on during the Halloween season, from parties and pumpkins to haunted houses, costumes and candy. I bet if we're honest, most of us haven't even thought about how much money we spend altogether on this fall holiday, but for our children's sake, it may be time to start creating a budget.

Halloween spending will hit a record $9.1 billion, up from $8.4 billion in 2016, according to the National Retail Federation, which surveyed shoppers through research firm Prosper Insights & Analytics. The average planned Halloween spending per household is $86.13, which doesn't sound so bad, but as I think about how much I will/have spent, that average feels a bit low.

My costs:

Cookie Monster Costume: $29.26

Pumpkin Patch Pumpkins: $32.00 (4 pumpkins at $8.00 each...because I can't forget to get the dog a pumpkin!)

Candy from Costco: $26.99

Total: $88.25

Seems simple enough. But then I thought about all the other things we pay for around Halloween that I didn't take into account:


Fall festivals/haunted houses

Ordering dinner in on Halloween

A costume for myself or my husband

If I added all of that in, my grand total would be closer to $300 or more!

I know there are plenty of families larger than mine out there that are spending double or even triple what I spend on Halloween without a thought about how much it costs. And if we're not thinking about how much it costs, we're probably not talking to our kids about it.

But now is the perfect time to talk to our children about a budget for Halloween. Your kids are fired up about AEI, Money Monday and Finance Friday! Take advantage of this great opportunity to discuss budgets and responsible spending.

Don't know where to start?

Here are some great financial lessons kids can learn from Halloween:

Read more about Halloween Spending

If you've ever been to Aspen Academy on a Friday when AMP'd, our Aspen Morning Program, is scheduled, you may have noticed the Bear's Store. If you haven't noticed the store, you've probably seen the Bear's Coffee Cart, and maybe even bought yourself a coffee or a breakfast burrito. Or, on the off chance that you haven't noticed the coffee cart, and you have attended AMP'd, then you have definitely seen the Bear's Broadcast.

What you may or may not know is that Bear's Student Enterprises, or BSE for short, is composed of all ancillary businesses on campus. This includes not only a café, a store and a broadcast, but also a publications division and an executive team. These businesses are all owned and operated by 7th and 8th grade students. And by operated, I mean that the students create financial statements, determine marketing opportunities, and run the day-to-day business operations of each division. It's very different than the school store you may have worked at in middle school - I know it looks very different than the store at my middle school. And I surely had no idea what a P&L was or how much revenue was generated or what the budget was for my school store. But the 7th and 8th graders who own and operate the BSE divisions are learning these things - and a lot more. They are learning how to market products and create segments for production; they are learning to speak in front of an audience of 400 people and pitch ideas, run financial reports and edit spreadsheets. They are learning to be leaders, to listen to others and to generate ideas. Real world stuff.

What many people do not learn until their first after-college job, Aspen Academy students learn at 12 and 13 years old. They are many steps ahead as they walk into the doors of their high school, which is exactly where we want them to be. We want them modeling what it looks like to lead. We want them generating the new ideas. We want them speaking in front of audiences. We want them questioning. Why? Because if not them, then who?

Read more about Bear's Student Enterprises - More Than Just a School Store

Last Friday, during the busy hustle and bustle in the hallway before AMP began, I overheard a father ask his son if he wanted to put his change back into his bank. I immediately turned around. These are the moments I live for. I bent down and asked the young man, who must have been around five or six and was getting ready to enjoy a donut from the Bear's Cafe, if he had paid for his donut out of his own money. He very proudly told me yes. I then went on to ask how he had earned the money, and he very matter-of-factly told me that he does chores around the house. He proceeded to tell me that donuts were only a $1.00, so he still had $4.00 left! I shared with him that I was super proud of him for using his own money to make the purchase, and he left with a grin on his face.

As proud of him as I am, I'm even prouder of his parents. His parents are doing a service for that young man that is far greater than the $1.00 he paid for that donut. By allowing a young child to earn real, tangible money and make authentic decisions on how to spend it, they are teaching him something that many adults were never taught – how to handle their money.

Sure, your sons and daughters are learning about how to manage their money here at Aspen Academy on Money Mondays and Finance Fridays, but unless we are consistent between home and school, the lessons your children learn at school will be for naught; if everything is handed to them and no conversation ensues about where this money comes from, the lessons they learn will be meaningless. The parents of this young man get it. They know that what their son learns at school is an extension of what he learns at home – and vice versa. If you haven't begun those conversations or chores or real-life financial talks, now is as good a time as any.

Ask your children what they learned about this week in Money Monday or Finance Friday. Ask them what job they have, how much they are getting paid, if they think it's a fair amount to get paid for the job they're doing, what they spent their money on at the market or auction, why they chose to save their money, or how much money they have in their bank at school. They are having these conversations at school. Have them at home, too.

Ask them if they want to earn money at home, what they think they could do to earn money, how they would spend their money, if they want to open a savings account, or if they want to help you budget for your next vacation.

If you have no idea where to start, start here. I am happy to help you!

Below you'll find an article on what you can do at home to help your kids handle money. Thanks for reading!

Read more about Money Management: Begin the Conversation