April 23, 2021

What does money tell us?

Author: Ms. Isabel Figueroa - English as An Additional Language (EAL) Specialist

Have you ever looked closely at the money you use? Mr. Rob Stevenson’s 6th grade Visual Art classes begin their exploration of the MYP with a unit on currency. As the 6th graders discover, there are worlds of information on those small pieces of paper in our wallets.

MYP Visual art exhibition - Currency creators


Mr. Rob shows his classes bank notes from various countries, including Vietnam and the United States. Students consider how countries communicate their national histories and values on their bank notes. They identify whose portraits, and which images and words the bank notes display. 

The 200,000 VND note, for example, depicts a portrait of the revered Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi Minh. The reverse side of the note shows a scene of Hạ Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in northern Vietnam. What can these features tell us about Vietnam?

The United States ten dollar bill portrays the country’s first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. Flip the bill, and you see an image of the U.S. Treasury building along with the official motto, “In God We Trust.” What can the man, the landmark, and the quotation tell us about the United States?


Students go on to establish their own countries and currencies. Each student invents an imaginary country, complete with a history and values, and designs a bill that expresses that country’s essence.

In 6th grade, students use a paper notebook for their sketches. They periodically photograph their work and use the app, CamScanner, to upload clear images of their art work to a digital process journal. Process journals provide a space for students to store photos of their artistic progress and to reflect on their work.

Grade 6 designed their own currencies.


As they create their two-sided bills, students think about various elements of art such as shape, form, and color, and principles of art which include emphasis, pattern, and contrast. For the final assessment in the unit on currency, students explain their use of various elements and principles on their bills.

Some bank notes from this year reflect the value of nature, physical activity, unity, and innovation!

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