The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA

Economic Ventures

To kick off a unit on economics, sixth grade social studies students spent several class periods learning how to wheel and deal in a barter economy this month. Through the immersive Barter Game, students were transported to one of six distinct islands, each with its own array of resources. Their task? To navigate the complexities of inter-island commerce, forging alliances and striking deals to amass a complete collection of resources. Students honed their skills in resource management and strategic decision-making as they bartered with their peers. However, the unpredictable hand of fate could also add an unwelcome twist as the success of each negotiated trade hinged on the roll of teacher Bruce Chauncey’s dice. 

Current events are a regular feature of sixth grade social studies, providing students with a contemporary lens through which to view their historical studies of the U.S. Constitution and the Supreme Court. Through platforms like CNN 10, students explore global affairs, from politics to science and technology, enriching their understanding of the world around them. “Every time you get into government and politics, economics works its way in, and the kids are fascinated by it,” says Bruce. This year, he created an economics unit for the sixth grade social studies curriculum to give students a foundational understanding of elementary economics, banking, and concepts like profits, capital goods, and interdependency. The principles of economics are demonstrated for students in the book Life on Paradise Island by William Harmon Wilson, which follows the economic evolution of citizens on an imaginary island.

The Barter Game offered students an immersive entry point to the basic trading of goods and services. Each island group was required to keep an accurate running tally of their resources in a ledger. Entries were made for acquisitions through trade or replenishment, while deductions were recorded for items exchanged, consumed, or lost. In each turn, students sent trade offers to other islands, proposing trades for resources like food, livestock, wood, and fire. Successful agreements were formalized through signed contracts and submitted for validation by Bruce. Rejected proposals necessitated a return to the drawing board, compelling teams to devise alternative strategies for securing favorable exchanges. At the end of each turn, Bruce rolled the dice to determine the fate of trades by sea. Joyous cheers erupted for rolls of 3 - 6, signaling smooth sailing and a successful exchange. Conversely, groans echoed for rolls of 1 or 2 as the goods and boat were lost at sea!
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