Creating a mini-economy

A recent article in U.S. News & World Report (Aug. 24, 2016) by Susan Johnston Taylor reads: “The Council for Economic Education’s Survey of the States found that only 20 states require high school students to take an economics class to graduate and even fewer states require a course in financial literacy. But teachers who do cover financial concepts such as saving and investing find that students even as young as elementary school can grasp — and get excited about — money lessons.”

The question many have as parents and educators is: How do we teach financial literacy to our children and students in an interesting and valuable way? At Belle Meade School, we are endeavoring to do this. In a joint project for both our Government and Humanities classes, we are creating a functioning mini-society with a mini-economy for both middle and high school students as a means of teaching the basics of government, business, economics, and finance.

This project helps students to learn governmental functions through the practical experience of writing a constitution, electing officials, creating laws, and running a government. Students are developing a mixed-economy structure which includes aspects of both command and free-market systems. They then apply for jobs, create entrepreneurial businesses and trade goods/services within the economy and using their own internal currency.

In response to this teaching strategy, the Virginia Council on Economic Education (VCEE) states that a “mini Economy is experience-based instruction used to teach concepts of entrepreneurship, economics and government in the classroom. Conducted as a unit of study, this high-energy simulation focuses on economic concepts, financial literacy, classroom management and real-world market situations.”.

A mini-society fosters creative thought, cooperative problem-solving, and gives a broader practical view of how modern society functions. Our long-term goal with this project is to help students develop the tools necessary to fully understand and participate as citizens in real-world economic, social, and political systems. This is just one approach to teaching financial literacy in the classroom. We hope to connect with other schools in the area and throughout Virginia that are conducting similar projects in the hopes of collaborating.

“As a student, I believe that the incorporation of this mini-society will prepare me for my future as an adult in understanding leases, bank accounts, taxes and jobs while providing an exciting atmosphere at school.” — Elliott Eaton, 12th grader.

Belle Meade will have its first mini-society presentation and market day from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16, during the school’s open house.

Alex Forte
Belle Meade School

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