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Financial literacy makes for great classroom projects

Students are never too young to start learning about money and economics.
Students are never too young to start learning about money and economics.
© 2014 Suzanne Brodsky

As educators, we often think of spending our time teaching the basics of math, reading, and writing. Out of all the different ways we can combine these for a cross-curricular approach to teaching, we don’t always consider turning them into a financial project to teach basic economics. Even elementary school children can benefit from exciting new ways to learn about goods and services, and get their first look into becoming an entrepreneur!

The first step is to go over some vocabulary words with the class. This includes the differences between goods (cards, books, clothing, etc.) and services (electricians, plumbers, snow removal), as well as wants (wanting a certain type of food as opposed to needing a specific medicine). Make sure to get specific examples from the students. They can create a list as you go through the lesson. Discuss the productive resources used to obtain these goods and services and to satisfy the people’s wants. These resources include natural resources, human resources and capital resources. Another vocabulary term to go over is scarcity. When you don’t have enough of a product or service to satisfy everyone’s wants, you have a scarcity. This is what creates supply and demand.

After you go through the vocabulary words, create one list with the class that you write on the blackboard or SmartBoard that encompasses various types of goods. Some of these items are things you would like to have, while others are items you need. Next, ask for volunteers to pretend they are performing a certain type of service. Have the rest of the class try to guess what that service is, while you write it on the board. Similarly, have the class draw pictures of people performing services. Hold the pictures up and see if the others can correctly guess what service is being performed.

Finally, you can read an assortment of books to your class that tie in with the subject of economics. These include Homer Price by Robert McCloskey (focusing on supply and demand) and The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins (focusing on scarcity).

Ultimately, you can tie in your economics lessons with math, social studies and literacy. Economics also helps to teach problem solving skills, decision-making and money management. Once you have taught several lessons, you might want to have your students create a product on their own (as a class), and try to sell it to the school. They would need to determine what students want. This is accomplished by taking polls, interviewing, sending out questionnaires, etc. Next, they would need to determine what would sell the best. Once they create the project, they can hold a class fair during school one day and see how much money they make. Lastly, they would need to decide what to do with the proceeds. Some classes may wish to give away the proceeds to charity. Others might want to put the money in the bank and save it to help fund next year’s class project in economics. No matter which direction you go in, economics can provide a fun and lively alternative to engage students in their school community and to teach important life concepts that will serve them well in the years to come.