To understand the complex structures that work together in an economy, students live and breathe economics through two instructional frameworks: the mini-economy and the classroom business. In the end, they are able to demonstrate their understanding by running their own small-businesses, as well as making informed decisions at our monthly market.
What makes something valuable?
Could a society function without money?
How do relationships influence the economy?
These are the essential questions that students work towards understanding during our months-long conceptual economics unit.
The unit begins with a classroom business enterprise, where as a class we create a product to sell to our school community for real money. The purpose of beginning the unit this way is to build a schema of background knowledge and firsthand experience which will help when they begin to run develop their own small businesses later in the unit. The following blog posts detail the process used in developing Bunny Bracelets, Inc., our classroom business from the 2016-17 school year.
Bunny Bracelets Blog Posts:
As the unit progresses, the students engage in various interdisciplinary activities that help to develop their understanding of complex and abstract economic concepts. You can read about one of my favorites here.
At this point in the unit, the students are like little economic experts. Capitalizing on the entrepreneurial enthusiasm that is inevitably setting in, we begin our classroom mini-economy. Through the following blog posts, you will see how powerful learning becomes when the students’ creativity and passion become the center of learning!
Our economics unit usually coincides with the holiday of Tu BiShvat. Integrating with our Judaic Studies, the students work in groups to study the 7 species of Israel. They then embark on a research project to find the productive resources used to grow and harvest their species. We then transform our classroom into an Israeli Shuk, where parents and community members are invited to taste foods from the 7 species and learn about the economics involved in their production. The student groups have their own “booths” where they present their knowledge and give samples of their products.
What’s amazing about running a classroom business and a mini-economy is that it opens up economic conversations to the entire school. In my preschool-8th grade environment, every classroom got to participate through various steps, from interacting with our marketing strategies, to participating in the market survey, to actually purchasing our product with real money. Imagine a 4-year old making a purchase with real money from a 3rd grader who has to calculate the amount of change due back to the consumer! The younger grades now look forward to 3rd grade and the chance to start and run a business of their own.
Looking outside of our school, the students and I have been able to promote economic education in a few different ways. In 2017, my students and I presented our classroom business project to other schools, educators, and stakeholders, at Purdue University’s Classroom Business Showcase. Later that year I led a breakout session at Purdue’s Classroom Business Enterprise conference, encouraging other elementary teachers to start a classroom business of their own. I also presented at an Indiana Council for Economic Education board meeting, as a means of educating board members on the intricacies of running a classroom business to prepare them for judging a classroom business contest.
Through the myriad of experiences this unit provides, all students are able to feel and harness their entrepreneurial power. The barrier between the money-making world and their world is shattered, as they realize that they have all the tools they need to design, create, and succeed.
I teach 3rd grade General Studies at Hasten Hebrew Academy of Indianapolis, where I am encouraged to take risks and innovate as I create and implement my own research-based conceptual curricula. Outside of school I spend my time reveling in the joys of living with my husband, our two young sons, and our dog.
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