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Rockwood Valley Middle Students Earn State Title in Fall Stock Market Game

 Four Rockwood students smile in their school hallwayRockwood Valley Middle students Noah Bairu, Noah Denen, Ambrose Fischer and Tommy Westerman started experimenting with the stock market last year, dabbling in the Investopedia Stock Market Simulator, studying trends and learning the markets.

So when it came time to play the SIFMA Foundation’s Stock Market Game through Caroline Podgornik’s eighth-grade Academic Stretch class this fall, the students were eager to test their knowledge and experience.

“Also, we just wanted to win,” Denen said.

And win, they did.

The Rockwood Valley team took home first place in the state of Missouri in the Middle School Division of the nine-week Stock Market Game this fall. Not only that, but they came in first place out of more than 750 teams across all grade levels – including high-schoolers – in the state.

“They were driven, had a lot of motivation, spent a lot of time researching companies and did true research,” Podgornik said. “They sought information out and didn’t just do what was in front of them. The companies they invested in aren’t just ones you’ve heard of."

In the Stock Market Game, teams start out with $100,000 of fake money and invest it in the stock market. Their success is determined by how well their theoretical portfolio does.

Or, in the Rockwood Valley team’s case, how good they were at predicting when a stock’s price would fall. Bairu, Denen, Fischer and Westerman were very successful at “short selling:” borrowing shares and immediately selling them on the expectation that the price of the shares will fall afterwards and you can buy them back later for a cheaper price.

It’s a fairly risky proposition. While the Rockwood Valley team did invest in some “long” plays – in which they bought a stock, held it and benefited as its price rose – the shorts were their bread and butter.

“We were very good at banking on when a stock would crash,” Westerman said. “We made a lot of our money that way.”

In the end, the Rockwood Valley team ended up winning by about $30,000. And the leaderboard updated daily, so the students could tell they were in the lead the whole time.

“It was rewarding,” Denen said.

“We kind of knew it was coming when we won, though,” Fischer added, with a laugh.

Westerman said he hopes to go into finance in the future, and Bairu can see himself continuing to play the stock market as well when he gets older, even if it’s not ultimately the career path he’d like to pursue.

“I like that stocks are a very nice way to make more money and reinvesting what you make is very important for building a lot of wealth,” he said.

Podgornik and her students have been participating in the Stock Market Game for 25 years. She said the game teaches valuable critical thinking skills.

“It’s more of that abstract thought versus concrete, and it makes them revise and rethink, which is good for everybody to do,” she said. "When somebody really loves something, as a teacher, that’s what you want them to have all the time. It’s awesome when it happens.”