TERRE HAUTE —
Teaching kids – or adults for that matter – about business and economics can be a daunting task.
For grade-schoolers, the concepts of demand, supply, competition, profits and losses may seem very abstract.
That’s why Sheri Reed, a Riley Elementary fourth-grade teacher, wanted her kids to learn about these things firsthand, by starting and operating their own small businesses.
Reed’s fourth-graders — and all fourth-grade students at Riley – spent two days this week operating small retail stores at their desks. They sell items they develop and produce themselves.
“I had to clean out my cat’s litter box and I folded clothes,” said fourth-grader Katlyn Fulk, explaining how she earned the money she needed to buy ingredients for the cookies she was selling. Fulk sold all of her cookies before lunch Wednesday, but only after learning some valuable lessons.
On Tuesday, several kids were also selling cookies, so sales were slow, Katlyn said, adding that prompted her to drop her cookie price to a quarter from 50 cents. On Wednesday, some of the kids selling cookies tried other products, leaving her just one of two in the cookie business. As a result, her demand rose and so did her price, back to 50 cents, she said.
The reverse happened in the lemonade market. On Tuesday, only Michaela Cox was peddling the sweet drink, and her sales were strong, leading two other students in Reed’s class to jump on the lemonade bandwagon the next day.
“I sold out yesterday,” Cox said, noting sales were a little slower Wednesday. Just two desks over, Addeline Roberts also was selling lemonade at a lower price, 15 cents a glass compared with 25 cents from Cox.
Roberts said she was inspired to sell lemonade by Cox’s success on Tuesday. The day before, Roberts had tried selling Corn Chex Puppy Chow, a treat made from Corn Chex, chocolate, peanut butter and other tasty ingredients. However, perhaps because of the name, it didn’t sell very well, she said.
“I only sold about half of the ‘puppy chow,’” Roberts said. “I’m selling a lot more lemonade.”
The students also learned that it’s hard to successfully predict the next consumer fad. Last year, the big trend item was “flubber,” a non-stick gooey substance students can create in different bright colors. This year, the popular items were wallets and purses made from decorated duct tape.
“I sold out in 15 minutes,” said Zach Dove, who peddled duct tape wallets on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Dove sold brownies, which also sold quickly.
“I kept my prices low,” Dove said explaining the secret of his high volume.
Now that they have operated their businesses, the kids will begin the paper and pencil work associated with their economics lessons, Reed said. But having this experience first will make those lessons much easier for the students to understand.
Part of the money earned in the fourth-grade program will be used to pay for the students’ annual field trip to the Terre Haute Children’s Museum. The rest, expected to be about $600, will be donated to the museum, Reed said.
“This makes [economics and business] exciting for them,” Reed said. “It’s one of their favorite projects that we do.”
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.