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Immersing Children In Economics
By: First Grade Teachers Julie Smith and Arika White
For many years, first grade students have enjoyed an interactive and educational field trip to the Magic House. This challenging program, designed for second and third graders, provides our students with a taste of life as a working adult within a community.
In preparation for this recent field trip, students were assigned jobs such as veterinarian, banker, nurse or park ranger. They learned about the skills necessary to complete their upcoming tasks. Additionally, we spent several weeks studying various aspects of the economy including goods and services, producers and consumers, creating budgets, supply and demand, and wants versus needs.
At the Magic House they received pretend paychecks and had to plan how to spend their money responsibly on “breaks” from their job. After spending time at their job and visiting other jobs during breaks, the students worked together to create a family budget. As a pretend family, they discussed where and how their money should be designated.
Why is it important to expose children at an early age to the complex workings of our economy? James Laney, education department chair at UNC, along with Mark Schug, professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, recognize the importance of early exposure to economics. Their article, “Teach Kids Economics and They Will Learn” indicates, “Elementary students, even those in the early primary grades, are capable of learning and remembering economic concepts if they are taught in developmentally appropriate ways.”
Here are several ways to expose your children to the concepts of economy and commerce at any age:
Provide compensation for chores completed at home
Take your children to a farmer’s market or flee market to witness the exchanges and introduce them to the concepts of bartering and goods vs. services
Discuss what items used to cost compared to how much they cost now
Have a lemonade stand
Discuss paying for items with paper money, as opposed to credit cards or checks
Play grocery store with your children
By immersing students in hands-on, real-world features of our economy, they can begin to build background knowledge, which will then be drawn upon later in their education or in their daily life.