Wednesday, February 26, 2014

STEM Economy Simulation Unit

This year, I’ve challenged myself to make Social Studies more fun.  There are so many wonderful things you can do to breathe life into a subject that many just pull out a textbook for!

During first quarter, according to North Carolina Essential Standards, we were to teach a unit on Economy.  Being in Wake County, we have access to online curriculum that is already developed for us.  While the Social Studies curriculum is becoming better and better, I still like to put my own spin on it and be creative to help my students truly enjoy learning. 

I created a short Economy Simulation Unit for my students- to meet all of the standards, along with teaching them real-life skills and we also had a little fun along the way!

First, we talked about all of the different bills and payments that their parents pay each month.  Then, I had them choose (from a list I created) education, a job, a place to live, car, bills, extras, etc.  Basically, having them choose what their life could look like.  However, attached to these choices were dollar amounts.  Whichever job they chose gave them a certain income per month.  They then would have to pay bills from this amount.  Almost like a way more realistic MASH (Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House- who remembers that game?!? ;)

My kiddos had so much fun choosing these “grown up” things and then we talked about the hard part- making sure you have enough money to cover all of your bills, and then paying the bills themselves.  I gave them a Transaction Register Sheet (just like in a checkbook) and had them fill it out as they filled out their checks.  They would make a payment to the company by placing a filled-out check in an envelope with the company’s name on it. 

Of course I modeled (several times) how to properly fill out a check and a Transaction Register Sheet.  I was worried that it might be too difficult for my 5th graders to do all of this, but the really rose to the occasion!

But of course, what would life be without a curve ball or two?  To make this simulation a little more interesting, I also allowed each student to choose 2-3 Entertainment Cards after all of their bills were paid.  I had anything from free entertainment (hanging out with friends) to expensive entertainment (going to a concert). 

I also then made them choose 2 Fate Cards.  These Fate Cards were to help simulate real life situations- anything from a friend being able to fix your car for free, having to buy a new tire for your car, or your car breaking down and having to spend over $300 to get it fixed. 

I think the most interesting thing to me was how the students chose the entertainment cards and how they made their original choices for cars, homes, etc.  Some students chose the most expensive of everything, but quickly saw that wasn’t going to work on their smaller income.  Some students were more conservative with their choices and chose the cheapest of each choice.  And surprisingly, many students chose the free Entertainment Cards- when there were many really good choices for fun entertainment!

I also included a reflection portion on the back of the foldable- I wanted my students to think about the simulation as a whole, their choices and how that relates to real-life.  I used the Icons of Depth and Complexity to guide my questions and I love how they turned out!  (If you are not familiar with the Icons of Depth and Complexity, please visit JTaylor Education to find out more- they are life changing!)

This was such a fun Simulation Unit for me and for my students.  One of my girls told me that she didn’t really like Social Studies until this year- a really cool compliment, and who knows, maybe it will inspire her to realize a passion for something!

I’ve put my Economy Simulation Unit for sale in my TeachersPay Teachers Store- it’s full of ALL of the documents you’ll need to do this simulation in your classroom.   Enjoy!

J Ashley