A ‘fun’ lesson in economics

Students receive hands-on experience during Ancient Market Day at LMS

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Excited, boisterous voices filled the air as potential buyers haggled with sellers during Ancient Market Day at Liberty Middle School.

Blankets, filled with handmade goods ranging from perfume to pottery, took up every inch of available ground space. Sellers, eager to earn money for their goods, encouraged potential buyers to have a look.

The annual event is the culmination of five weeks of classroom learning about trade and economics. Students learn about production and costs for businesses, including materials and labor. They also learn the difference between gross and net profit, and the effects of supply and demand.

“I enjoy seeing the students put their academic learning into action and making the connections between the material in their reading and research, to their own lives,” said Beth Martell, language arts and social studies teacher.

Students begin producing their items in May, and are responsible for keeping a record of their time and materials. This is broken down into costs for their “business.”

“In math class, students are led through the process of how to price their products by discovering the actual cost per unit for each product they make,” Martell said. “They make jewelry, shields, helmets, wall hangings, perfume, candles, hats, coin pouches, vases and assorted pottery. We encourage the use of recycled items and set a limit of purchased materials at no more than $10.”

During the market, more than 100,000 units of currency, called dinars, are exchanged.

This is done to introduce the concept of gross national product, how inflation is created and the causes of deflation.

“We discuss how we can grow an economy and most importantly, we learn that one person’s pay is the income for another when they spend it,” Martell said. “It is fun to haggle with them and see the seriousness with which they have made their items and the pride they take in selling them to each other. The economic learning becomes something very real for them and not just theory that needs to be learned for a test.”

Mercedez Bancke created Chinese symbols on cards and ancient Egyptian style necklaces to sell at the market.

“This is fun because you get to look at everyone’s creations and have fun with everybody,” she said.

Alyssa Merino made Chinese coins and “ankhas,” which symbolize external life.

“I really enjoyed working with the clay and shaping it,” she said.

After the market is finished, students reflect on the experience and receive feedback on their products.

“The students gain a clearer understanding of how the American economy works,” Martell said. “This is a lesson that is important for their own decisions about their educational opportunities that they will face as seniors in high school, and when making decisions about their future and the economic consequences of those decisions.”