Tag Archives: capitalism

The Busy Week

So with all this crazy weather going on, we’ve had a lot of projects all piling up lately.  Plus, this Thursday and Friday, we had parent-teacher conferences.  That being said, I ended up missing my entry last week.  For those of you that regularly follow me, who are you?  And also, sorry. 🙂

So what have we been doing?  Here are a few highlights.

Social Studies:  The students recently completed a “Shark Tank” simulation to learn about some basic concepts of capitalism.  After watching clips of the show, the students had to come up with a new product or service, then develop a business plan around it that they then presented to us.  The students did a great job, dressing formally for their presentations and giving us plenty of data.  They came up with several very creative ideas, including a robot lawn mower, plastic hats that go on top of your car, an app that determines whether or not you’re sick, and more.  To top it off, we talked with our counselor’s son at the University of Indiana, who just recently presented his own app to an investment group that works for Mark Cuban as part of his business class.  A great experience.

Language Arts:  Our students finished interviews of their family members a few weeks ago, and now, they are turning those interviews into biographical narratives.  This activity is not a naturally easy process for many of the students, so we have been providing lots of feedback on a daily basis.  In addition, they have been working with each other and referring to peer examples to get some ideas.  It’s been a great process, and some of the drafts we have read have been fantastic.  We are looking to collect these pieces later to create a book that the students will edit and produce together.

Math:  The students have been using SketchUp, a computer software program, to create 3-D models of various classrooms and outdoor parts of the school.  In the process, we have been making connections to our chapter on scale, realizing how the sizes of different objects in the recreation must match up.  The students have been very meticulous, and the few samples I have seen look great.

As you can see, we’re trying to incorporate a lot of project-based learning into our classroom, and I think it’s had great results.  The students love coming into school each day (at least, their parents said that during conferences).  It’s not hard to find an extension activity for the students when they get done with a lesson – they just go work on their project.  All in all, it has been a busy, hectic, but incredibly satisfying past few weeks.

Classroom Activity: Teaching Communism with Chocolate

Since the beginning of January, my students have been learning about the Industrial Revolution.  In the past few lessons, we have had a discussion about capitalism versus the rise of socialism and communism.  Often when students read about communism, they think either think it sounds fantastic, or go off of the few extremist views of communism and say it’s the worst thing ever.  These opinions are almost always accompanied by a lack of true understanding.  As a teacher (and a person in general), one of my biggest goals is to impress upon people the need to have intelligent thoughts behind their opinions.  So, in order to provide my students with an up close and personal experience with communism, we played a little game.  Now this activity has been published in several places, so I don’t feel all that comfortable giving credit anywhere, but a quick Google search should find you with several other sources.

First, I gave Hershey’s Kisses out to all of the students.  Some of the students were given more, to simulate how capitalism can sometimes provide some people with advantages before they are even born.  The students were then told to play Rock, Paper, Scissors against each other.  Each time you won, you took a piece of candy from the loser.  Play continued until we have a handful of people without any candy, as well as some people who have quite a collection.

Play is then stopped, and we make the comparison that the game was similar to the free market.  Some people make money, some people lose money.  In the process, many people become completely broke.  In a truly capitalistic society, no one is there to give you a handout if you lose everything.  Now, there were a few people who would give their friend one of their pieces, and these we compared to charitable organizations.  We heard many people asking for candy from others, and other people being very greedy with their candy.  We pointed out these sentiments so that students could see some of the problems with capitalism.  We then polled the students on whether they were happy or not with their results.  The class was split about half and half, with the majority of those who were happy being the ones that still had candy.

We then enforced socialism, saying that everything needed to be fair.  We took candy from those who had lots and gave it to those who had little or none.  We then polled the students on their satisfaction with this scenario.  The results were about the same but opposite, as those who now had candy were awfully happy.  We even got to see some of the shortcomings of socialism – complaining among those who had candy, even some of the students hiding candy in their desk so they didn’t have to share.  

We then went on to question the students about their interest in playing the game again.  Most people said no, which we said symbolized the goal of socialism:  for people to be happy sharing what they have with others.  We pointed out, however, that some students were still greedy and were actively looking to take from their neighbors.  These people, we said, would cause the whole system to collapse.

We then made comparisons to the current economic system in the US, mentioning things like welfare, Social Security, and more.  We even got into a little discussion of capitalism in our country and how those that have a lot (Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, etc.) have so much more than we do that it’s hard to comprehend.  While we are not economic experts and didn’t go into too much detail, it did give us a great opportunity to make some connections to some very important ideas, as well as mix in a few current events.

This is a great activity, and if you teach anything about communism or socialism, it should happen in your class.  The students stay incredibly engaged, they get to experience true emotions that help them to see the benefits and faults of the various systems, and they get candy at the end.  What’s not to like?