Make Your Own Money

A WebQuest for
10th -12th Grade 
Economics and Art

Designed by Janice Cooper with Nicole Cole, Anita Parciasepe, and Ed Pasino

Northern Valley Regional
High School
Old Tappan, NJ 07675


Introduction | Task | Process | Conclusion | Credits |

Resources | Additional Resources | Evaluation Rubric |Teacher Page



Bills. Bread. Cash. Dinero. Dough. Loot. Moolah. Cha-Ching.


As the song says, "A Mark, a Yen, a Buck, or a Pound is all that makes the world go around, that clinking Clanking sound, can make the world go around."3

But, what IS money?

  • Where does it come from?
  • How does it get its value?
  • How does it reflect what the community values, conceptually and artistically?
  • Does anyone or any group have enough of it?

To start thinking about money as more than just a way to get things, but as a way to make things, and as things that are made, use this reflective writing process:
Songs in the Key of $.

Did you know that you can, legally, make your own money?

What kind of money would you make?

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Communities around the world have developed alternative money systems. "Alternative money system" refers to:

  • currencies that are alternatives to federal dollars or bills, or
  • alternative methods of exchange to dollars and bills.

Roll the mouse over the map below. When the cursor turns into the hand symbol, click on the location. 18 linked mini-pages describe just a small number of the astonishing array of alternative money systems around the globe. They illustrate the diversity and ingenuity of the people who create such systems.


In countries from Africa to the Americas, in towns in Australia, Canada, England, France, Japan, Mexico, Scotland, Senegal, Switzerland, Thailand, approximately 800 communities have developed alternative money systems. Some are based on their own "dollars;" others on barter systems of exchange.5 The American town of Ithaca, New York, Canadian Salt Spring Island, and the city of Toronto are among the 20 estimated North American communities that currently operate their own, unique community currencies. In Britain, there are an estimated 200 local exchange and trading systems or LETS. In Australia, LETS systems have been so successful, it was said that if the global economy crashed, "Australia would be the country most likely to survive, having developed a thriving alternative economy."6

In the U. S., community currencies are "local" because they must be spent in or near the community where they were created. They, like the examples shown on these pages are legal as long as you can easily distinguish the bills from the ones bearing the presidents' portraits.

"Like the United States dollars, local currencies are a legal form of taxable income. The Federal Reserve and the IRS have no prohibitions on local currencies as long as their value is fixed to the United States dollar, the minimum denomination is worth at least $1, and the bills do not look like federal money."7
LETS barter projects base their systems on credits that are managed in a variety of forms, from dollars to lists in spiral notebooks or computer databases. They list hours of work "banked" or services exchanged or goods bartered. In order to be viable, both systems must match the needs to the values of the community for which they are developed.

So, why would people spend the time and effort to create and maintain alternative money systems? What benefits could they bring to a community? View the Toronto Dollars Video at (The video is a large file and takes some time to load.)

You live in a unique community: your school. What do you need in your school that the budget does not supply? The school budget is the "allowance" the administrators are given to pay for operating or running the school. Like any allowance, it only goes so far. When the budget has been depleted, the school must wait to buy anything until the next budget year. What does your school community need?

Every school holds fund raisers. In some communities, they pay for activities like dances or field trips. In other communities fund-raisers pay for essentials like library books and safe playground equipment.

Not everyone who wants to go on trips or read books likes to sell magazine subscriptions, grapefruit, or candy.

What if you could develop and manage your own fund raiser? What if you could use money to make money? What if you could make your own money?

Can you plan an alternative money system to help you to raise the money your community needs?

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I. Determining Value: At What Price
II. Roles and Responsibilities
III. Research and Development
IV. Economic Summit
V. Final Development Phase
VI. Implementing Money System
VII. Reflection: Predictions


I. Determining Value

At the heart of any money system is "value." How is its value set? Who determines what money can buy?

Before researching and developing an alternative money system, the class as a whole will need to discuss and agree upon the value of goods and services that exist in your community. And, you will need to brainstorm a list of new goods and services you can realistically create.

Economists and Public Relations Managers work with money on a daily basis. Stephen DeMeulenaere, an economist, articulates how essential a task assigning value is:

"Value is not an easy thing to measure -- it is not the same thing as weight, distance, speed, capacity, or other values that can be measured, but like these things, it is a measure. It is simply information, and like the Internet, a form of mediated communication between people."9
Value is something a community, in order to work together, must agree upon.

As you saw in "Songs in the Key of $," artists are also concerned with "value." Ray Beldner and J.S.G. Boggs explore the concept of "value" through their art, which explore money as a medium, like paint or canvas. Boggs explains:
"Nobody knows what a dollar is, what the word means, what holds the thing up, what it stands for. And that's also what my work is about. Look at these things, I try to say. They're beautiful. But what the hell are they? What do they do? How do they do it?"10

Beldner creates dramatic sculptures of objects associated with money, such as business suits and money sacks, from material that resembles sheets of currency. (Examples of Beldner's art grace the Additional Resources page.) Boggs draws, by hand, very realistic renderings of money with which he purchases goods and services, such as restaurant meals, with his art.

Consider the driving force behind the economist's and artists' efforts: determining what people value.

What does your community value? What do you value in your community?

Using the Value Chart as a class to discuss and establish some consistent values for common goods and services in your school. This chart will be helpful to your group when you develop your alternative money system.

Now that you have developed a list of potential goods and services on which you could base a money system, you see that it CAN be done.

At this point, you will break into groups of three. You will have the opportunity to choose roles within which you will develop an expertise to bring to the process to answer the essential question of this project: Can you develop an alternative money system for your school community?

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II. Research Roles



Your primary task is develop the money system within the school community. How can communities develop their own money?

With the PR person, determine:

  • the type of alternative money system to be developed
  • the basis of its value
  • the legal issues involved
  • the "backers" who will start the system, if needed

With the Artist, plan:

  • the money or credit denominations
  • the money or credit symbols, color, size, graphics
  • preventing counterfeiting

Specific Economic Internet sites are linked on the Resources page.


Your primary task is to design the money or credit (the alternative money or the alternative to money) and the visuals for the community PR campaign.

With the Economist, determine:

  • the money or credit denominations
  • the money or credit symbols, color, size, graphics
  • preventing counterfeiting

With the PR person, plan a campaign:

  • selling the concept to the school administration.
  • selling the plan to the various economic outlets in the school, such as the school store and the cafeteria, etc.
  • engendering the interest and participation of the students.

Specific Art Internet sites are linked on the Resources page.


Public Relations

Your primary task is to plan and sell the money system and its implementation plan to the school community.

With the Economist, determine:

  • the type of alternative money system to be developed
  • the basis of value
  • the legal issues involved
  • the "backers" who will start the system, if needed

With the Artist, plan a community PR campaign:

  • selling the concept to the school administration.
  • selling the plan to the various economic outlets in the school, such as the school store and the cafeteria, etc.
  • engendering the interest and participation of the students.

Specific Public Relations Internet sites are linked on the Resources page.

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III. Research and Development

  1. The first step to developing your alternative money system will be a careful, but brief analysis of the needs of your community. Economic systems are developed to solve problems. What problems, issues, or concerns can you identify in your school?
    "The problem (and the beauty) of models like LETS or HOURS is the specifics. Therefore the answers to these questions really depend on the community implementing them. Whether a system is designed merely to increase buying power, or to put a monkey wrench into business-as-usual depends of the values and politics of those who create it."14
    The typical annual fund-raiser was suggested earlier as an example of an economic answer to a community problem. An alternative money system could enhance an already-existing economic system, or be entirely independent. Whatever shape your system takes will depend on this assessment.

    As you research the linked Web sites, you will adapt, dismantle, extend, or reject the ideas you read there. You will be transforming your understandings of value, community needs, and alternative money system into something truly unique.

    Following the example of the "Determining Values" activity, your group may want to create a chart, or use any one of a number of visual diagrams to help you develop your needs assessment.

    (An interesting tool to help you develop your thoughts on the topic is "Transforming Information into Understanding." Or, if you are familiar with using them, links to graphical organizers and concept maps are located under Organizing Tools on the "Additional Resources" page.)

  2. Brainstorm about the direction of your imagined alternative money system as a guide for your individual research. (Information on brainstorming is located under "Additional Resources.")
    -what can you agree on initially?
    -what do you need to research further?
    -can you coordinate your research resources so that you are not duplicating your efforts?

  3. Research using the Internet sites on the Resources Page. Focus on the Background Materials at this point in the research process.

  4. Browse through the Project sites. These are a sampling of the Web sites maintained by the actual community currency and LETS projects.

  5. After your first session of research can you come to some consensus in terms of the type of system you would like to implement? (Information on consensus is located under "Additional Resources.")
    - what might the basis of that system be?
    - who will you need to target in your campaign?
    - what do you will be the best way to attract them to your system?
    - how do you think it should look?
    - what local symbols or images are you thinking to incorporate?

  6. Continue to research with the goal of answering the questions and developing even more specific questions to lead you to research the necessary information thoroughly. Use the Megasites links for comprehensive information sources.

  7. Develop your money system. The Economist will need to concentrate on accessing the Alternative Money Systems Links
    - did you select a LETS, local "dollars" system, or a combination of the two systems?
    - which student groups have the largest budget to tap for "seed" money?
    - who will benefit the most from this project?
    - how will you manage the system?

  8. Design your alternative money or alternative to money. The Artist may need to access the Additional Resources page for information on advertising, graphic design, brochures, and posters.
    - will you design paper bills, electronic credit, clay tokens, or something entirely new?
    - what are your school colors, signs, and symbols?
    - how will the money reflect the school community?
    - how will students generate money and how will that be reflected in the denomination you create?

  9. Plan your PR campaign. The PR person may need to access the Additional Resources page for information on persuasive writing, advertising, and marketing plans.
    - how will you advertise this project to gain the community's support and participation?
    - who do you need to sell this project to initially, and how will you speak to them?
    - who will be your toughest "sell," and how will you convince them?

  10. Plan how you will deliver the PR campaign as a group oral presentation. (Information on oral presentations are linked on the Additional Resources page.)

  11. FYI, one school has established a long-term community currency system: The University of Missouri at Kansas City awards "Buckaroos" in payment for community service.

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IV. Economic Summit


  1. Students groups will conduct an Economic Summit meeting. (An economic summit meeting is one at which top economic advisors set policies for individual countries and international regions.)

  2. Each group will prepare and present their school currency and money system by creating:
    - a poster or brochure advertising the money system to the community,
    - a chart depicting how the alternative money system operates or functions,
    - samples of the "value token" or barter goods / services plan, and
    - a 3 minute persuasive speech outlining the benefits of your group's alternative money system.

  3. Using the Economic Summit Chart, the class will evaluate and select the most well-designed, feasible alternative money system, and examples of the best economic plan, artistic design, and public relations plans. These students will serve as leaders for the final phase of the design process as a class project.

  4. At the Economic Summit, access the Make Your Own Money: Evaluation Rubric (which your teacher will use to evaluate your work) to evaluate the work of your fellow class groups. Be sensitive to the fact that they are also evaluating your work with the same criteria.

    One sheet should be completed by each group, working together. Evaluations will be made for each role's work and for the group effort. Two insightful evaluative comments should be made for each role's responsibilities: Economics Plan, Artistic Design, and Public Relations Plan. Also score each group on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the highest.

    The most important evaluations are your comments, which will be essential for the class as you develop the final Alternative Money System.

  5. The "Group Project Score" is a rudimentary method of comparison. It will be used to evaluate how well the group has coordinated their individual responsibilities to develop their project. Score each group on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the highest.

    The group scoring the highest for their overall project will be team leaders for the completion of the final phase.

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V. Final Development Phase


The class will have one final session to work together to polish an alternative money system. Integrate any unusual innovations or creative plans from other plans to enhance the selected plans and designs.

  1. For the first 20 minutes:
    Public Relations
    will meet as role groups.

  2. For the following 30 minutes, the following role groups will meet to coordinate their efforts during 10 minute meetings:
    Economists and Public Relations
    Economists and Artists
    Artists and Public Relations

  3. The final 10 minutes of class will be a whole class meeting, lead by the Group that scored highest as a well-designed, feasible system, to polish the final version of the alternative money system

  4. Contact the "Real World." If, at this stage, you have specific questions that only a money systems expert can answer, your group might consider sending an email inquiry.

    (Caveat: You are researching a real topic of professional and personal interest, in which people participate at an international level. Please be very careful in your emails.
    Be appreciative of their time and expertise. Be respectful of their concerns and achievements. Be polite: "please" and "thank you" go a long way.)

    Submit any email to your teacher for approval before sending it.

    Three money system experts or organizations have graciously agreed to read your carefully written emails:

        The E.F. Schumacher Society, a community currency organization

        Paul Glover, founder of Ithaca HOURS,

        Stephen DeMeulenaere, Web Coordinator for
    Appropriate Economic Systems and Community Exchange
               in the Global South
    lm for a change: New Money Systems for a Sustainable Economy

    Search for their most recent email addresses on their Web sites. Look for "Contact Us" links.

  5. Present the class project to your principal, the director of the cafeteria, the manager of the school store, senior class advisor, student council president, activity club advisors, class presidents, etc., as planned in your PR campaign.

  6. Present the plan to the students, as planned in your PR campaign.

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VI. Implement Money System


The implementation of your alternative money system will be unique.

Its success will depend on how well you have integrated your research of alternative money systems, with your assessment of the real values and needs of your community into a creative, viable system. And, it will depend on your commitment to both the community and the system you created for it.

Good luck!

VII. Predictions: Gazing Into the Crystal Ball

As you know from your experience with "Songs in the Key of $," reflective writing is an essential skill, in not only writing, but in thinking as well. It can also be fun. With your group, Gaze Into the Crystal Ball and imagine the outcome of your project.

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What IS money?

This WebQuest began by asking that seemingly simple question. Is there a simple answer? A single answer? Probably not.

Is money a medium of expression? Artists who design dollar bills and design with bills believe so. For them, money reflects not simply our economy, but our entire culture.

Is money a mode of communication? Economists who devise and debate money systems believe so. As a medium of exchange, it has an agreed-upon value, which is an "understood" form of communication between community members. As the medium of exchange, it is the symbol by which goods and services are traded.

Is money a means of translation? Is it a bridge over which seemingly antithetical elements of our communities, such as Art and Business, communicate, or at least work together.

Is money a language? . . . A social contract? . . . A tool? . . . Perhaps it is all of these things.

You have worked as a member of your group throughout most of this WebQuest. Now it is time to sit back and reflect about your individual experience. What are your Second Thoughts? How can you use it as a springboard to think more globally and spend more carefully?

What additional ways can you think of to use your money to build your local or global community?
- Can you purchase products that are easier on the environment?
- Could you select products that are healthier for you, like organic food, with your money?
- Can you buy products that ensure fair wages for the workers that produce them?

What does your money, and how you use it, say about your school?
- Your community?
- Your culture?
- Your country?
- You?

Perhaps money doesn't "make the world go around" so much as people can make money go around the world.

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Credits, References, & Awards

"Make Your Own Money" was developed and renovated under the thoughtful guidance and generosity of Tom March. Participating in his course, Best WebQuest University (BWU), was an amazing, invigorating, enlightening experience.

While researching Internet resources for this WebQuest, built at BWU, I serendipitously found a quote that captures the essence of my understanding from his class:

If you want people to fight, throw them a bone. If you want people to cooperate, have them build a tower.- [Antoine de] Saint-Exupery, [The] Citadel.20
Thank you, Tom for helping me learn how to develop WQ tower blueprints that are solid, yet flexible, and for modeling how to set up learning "scaffolds" for my students to achieve at a higher level.

To my classmates, Lisa and Holly, thank you for building, with me, our BWU "tower," under Tom's guidance. Your advice, support, and shared experiences were unfailingly insightful and helpful.

A very special "thank you" to Northern Valley Old Tappan students in Mr. Pasino's Economics classes for their thoughtful evaluation of this WebQuest.

Best WebQuest of the Week

"We all benefit by being generous with our work. Permission is hereby granted for other educators to copy this WebQuest, update or otherwise modify it, and post it elsewhere provided that the original author's name is retained along with a link back to the original URL of this WebQuest. On the line after the original author's name, you may add Modified by (your name) on (date). If you do modify it, please let me know and provide the new URL."


Citations and Graphics Credits:

*The asterisk is used to identify the money graphics for which I have requested permission from their community currency projects to use in this WebQuest, but have not yet received permission to do so. If anyone can help me contact these projects, please send me their addresses via my email at the top of this page.

*1."Valley Dollars." The Valley Trade Connection (VTC). 20 May 2004. <>.

2. "Samples of the Totonto Dollar." Totonto Dollars. Totonto Dollar Community Projects Inc.. 10 May 2004. <>.

3. "Joel Grey---Money, Money, Money" song lyric." All The Lyrics.Com. 10 May 2004. <>.

4. "World Page (6) of Eight." World 5 April 2004. <>.

5. Block, Dave. "Local Money Strengthens Communities." community currencies. 10 May 2004. <>.

6. Meeker-Lowry, Susan. "The Potential of Local Currencies." July/August 1995. ZMagazine. 19 February 2004. <>.

7. Block, Dave. "Local Money Strengthens Communities." community currencies. 10 May 2004. <>.

8. "The PLENTY." NCPlenty.Org. NCPlenty, Inc. 10 May 2004. <>.

9. Stephen DeMeulenaere. Alternative Currencies and Community Development in the Majority World." community development.pdf Accessed 4 April 2004.

10. Lester, Toby. "The Money Artist." July 1999. The Atlantic Online. The Atlantic Monthly. 10 May 2004. <>.

*11. " images/dollars.jpg." 5 April 2004. < abcredits.htm>.

*12. " paintbrush.jpeg." 5 April 2004. < 20020925-showme.html>.

*13. " images/money.jpg." 5 April 2004. <>.

14. Meeker-Lowry, Susan. "The Potential of Local Currencies." July/August 1995. ZMagazine. 19 February 2004. <>.

*15. Hof, Donald. "CHE Scrip." Cascadia Hour Exchange. Cascadia Hour Exchange. 10 May 2004. <>.

*16. "Specimens." Salt Spring Island Dollars - $$. Salt Spring Island Monetary Foundation. 10 May 2004. <>.

17. "The Calgary Dollars Currency." Calgary Dollars. Calgary Dollars. 10 May 2004. <>.

*18. "A Look at the Ukiah HOURS Currency." In Each Other We Trust: Ukiah Hours. Ukiah Hours. 10 May 2004. <>.

19. Lietaer, Bernard A., "Community Currencies: A New Tool for the 21st Century." 4 April, 2004. <>

20. Lietaer, Bernard A., "Community Currencies: A New Tool for the 21st Century." 4 April, 2004. <>

Last updated on December 10, 2004. Completed through Tom March's, BWQU course. Based on conceptual and factual information, help, support, and templates from Web and Flow at as well as a Design Patterns template from The WebQuest Page.