Steward’s annual Mini-Economy Market Day caps off weeks of lessons that encourage fourth graders to think strategically about finance and entrepreneurship. Coordinated by Grade 4 Teacher Chris Tickle, budding entrepreneurs study the basics of microeconomics and then design, manufacture, and plan the sales of their very own products.
Early in the course, the students in all three of Mr. Tickle’s fourth-grade classes had a contest to create a name for their economy. (Last year’s economy name was Scrub a Dub Dub, Bubs in the Tub.) After much discussion, students voted to name this year’s economy Tickle’s Buy Stuff/Sell Stuff Shack. Then, they submitted ideas for money and flag designs and once again cast their votes. This year's flag features two brightly colored halves, one with a hand holding a product and one with a hand holding money. “The hands look like they are meeting for a successful sale,” noted Mr. Tickle, “and the currency is named mini-bucks.” A prize of 25 mini-bucks was awarded to the winner of each naming contest.
Students were each given an $8 budget to spend on materials to create an original product, and they engaged in market research to learn how to price their products accordingly. Students brought in a prototype of their product, picked several possible price points, and surveyed their peers to get data on the possibilities of sales at these different prices. Mr. Tickle said, “They were encouraged to pay attention to forces in the market during Market Day and to adjust their prices up or down according to how their sales were going.”
On Market Day, these young entrepreneurs could use their mini-bucks to purchase products from each other — or they could save their currency to buy special treats provided by faculty and staff. Treats included a round-trip ride to PE class and a tour of the workings of the Cramer Center. There were also lots of food options coupled with activities, and a silent auction for items with very limited availability (including a pizza lunch with Head of School Dan Frank; a basketball game in the varsity gym with Coach Wallace Inge, and lunch with Mr. TIckle that includes a ride in his convertible). Students could also bid for speaking parts in the spring Lower School reading assembly.
On February 27, the Bryan Innovation Lab was buzzing with activity as fourth graders hosted a Market Day to “sell” their products to faculty, staff, and third-grade students. The creative entrepreneurs pitched and sold their products, which included handmade papier-mâché pigs, soap, jewelry, crayons, origami animals, and more. One student even offered tarot-card readings!
“Each year, I think that I've seen all the possible products that students can come up with, and each year I'm proven wrong because there's something new,” said a delighted Mr. Tickle. “Their creativity astounds me, and their behavior shows that they really grasp the economics of supply and demand, and how these affect the prices of products. These students definitely gained some lifelong skills during our study of microeconomics.”