November 14, 2001 11:00 pm

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

IMBLER Trying to make money in a bear market?

It might be wise to consult the students in Frank Wards sixth-grade class at Imbler Elementary School.

The sixth-graders are among the youngest in the state participating in the statewide Stock Market Game. The game is a real-world simulation based on the actual stock market.

The Imbler students youth has not prevented them from showing promise as future financial managers. In fact, one team of students has been so successful that it is ranked 43rd among 222 teams in the state.

Over the course of 10 weeks, participants invest a hypothetical $100,000 in Nasdaq, Amex and New York Stock Exchange-listed stocks. They research stocks, study how the financial markets work, choose their portfolios, manage budgets, follow companies in the news and make decisions on whether to buy, sell or hold.

The game enables participants to discover the risks and rewards involved in decision-making, the sources and uses of capital, and other economic concepts.

(The stock market) was foreign territory to a lot of them. They are feeling more comfortable about how the stock market works, Ward said. They learn about strategies for real life.

Students have done well by investing in companies they think will do well in the present climate in which a fear of terrorism is prevalent.

For example, students have invested in soup companies because they believe more people will be stocking up on canned food so they will be ready for a national emergency.

Students are also investing in companies that make aircraft parts. The children believe that more private planes will soon be built because of fears about commercial airlines since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Ward said his students are paying closer attention to current events because of the game.

They are learning that there are a lot of different factors which affect the economy, Ward said.

The Stock Market Game concludes Dec. 7. The short, 10-week duration of the game is its one drawback. It forces students to buy stocks that will give a quick return rather than make investments for the long term, Ward said.

Wards students seem genuinely enthusiastic about the game.

Sixth-grader Brittanie Crook likes the game because it teaches students to make mature decisions.

It teaches you about responsibility, she said.

Sixth-grader Melissa Faulk said she likes the game because it teaches students things that some adults do not know.

Sarah Hall, another sixth-grader, said she enjoys the game because it has helped teach her how to research stocks.

Ward is involving students in the game because he wants them to learn how they can invest for their own personal futures.

No matter what they end up doing in their lives, investing should be a part of it, Ward said.