While teaching community to my second-grade students, I introduced them to Dorptown, and the children worked on creating their own community. Our currency was based on the Dorp, which was designed by one of the students. All the children became contributing members of the community–taking on jobs such as realtor, banker, and shop owner (they made their own product line.)
The most popular shop in Dorptown was the pizza shop–one student brought a toaster oven to school, as well as supplies like English muffins, spaghetti sauce, and cheese. He was well on his way to being the Dorpenairre, the richest person in town because everyone always wanted pizza. He also quickly learned the concept of supply and demand as day after day, he ran short on English muffins. After a few days, he had to change his operating hours–no longer could Michael sell pizza five days a week, his restaurant was only open three days a week, due, of course, to limited supplies.
It wasn’t long into the second week when Michael’s Pizza Shoppe had a competition. Haleigh opened up shop, just across the town by the windows. She offered pizza four days a week, and while her pizzas were smaller (on a Ritz Cracker), they were also priced lower.
It may have only been elementary school, but my students learned economics, the art of doing business, and competition. They also learned how to earn money… and how to spend it.
As spring approaches, so do the days of those wonderful lemonade stands. Around our neighborhood, kids create their own economics class as they stake out the corner, where they can get the best traffic. They go door to door announcing their stand, make and hang posters, and offer specials–” Lemonade is $1 per cup, but if you give us $10, we’ll give you the 11th cup free!” It always surprises me how many passersby just drop the $10 and leave with one or two cups.
My kids also look forward to the community garage sale, where they’ll compete with neighbors to have the most compelling driveway of toys to sell–and at the best prices. They’ve learned how to value income over toys (or the other way around) and, often, how to work a bargain.
Or, they’re learning. A few years ago, our garage sale was shaded (in my eyes) by the actions of a selfish customer.
In these early lessons of business, my kids have learned, as my students did, that the business world is a hard yet extremely rewarding place where the strongest will survive. They’ve learned concepts of competition, innovation, and value. They’ve learned to fend for themselves and make decisions.
Already, the kids are already collecting a box of sale items for our garage sale that is still months away. They’ve spoken of signs to make for the lemonade sale they plan on the first nice day–they tried to host one last week, but I convinced them not to stand outside in the 38-degree weather.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici