Hands-on economics lesson at NHS

Published 9:49 pm Thursday, November 20, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- How can beads, scissors and thread help teach anyone about the world's three main economic systems?
Ask Barbara Race, who teaches a required sophomore class at Niles High School, and you are more than likely to receive a quick answer.
On Tuesday, Race's students did a hands-on exercise that involved producing necklaces and bracelets while working under the fundamental values and rules of three economic systems.
The three systems are market, command and traditional economy.
Race's students were divided into groups of four and had three seven-minute sessions in which to produce the necklaces and bracelets, hence the scissors and beads.
The students had strict production guidelines and breaking them meant penalties.
They did not receive "payment" for a product that hadn't been produced according to the rules of each economy.
She said the students have been reading about the economic systems in class lately, and the exercise was a way to try and illustrate how the economies work.
Jessica Murphy, one of the students, seemed to enjoy the exercise, which took up the better part of class.
Doing the exercise, Murphy said, made her realize everyone has their own way of doing things.
Whitney Payne, another student, also enjoyed the exercise.
And, she quickly discovered which economy she thought it was easiest to work with. "I enjoyed producing beads with the market economy model because you're free to do what you want and get more things produced," she said.
Jake Grubbs, said he preferred working with the command economy model.
Brian Maglish, however, said he saw a problem with the market economy because when products are only made for profit, some products people may need won't be produced.
Although the exercise is an easy way to learn about the differences of the economy, it also made one student realize the importance of understanding the economies.
Race, who has taught history and social studies in the past, seemed satisfied with the outcome of the exercise, although she was busy going between the four groups and ensuring her students were following the exercise guidelines.
She thinks it's important the students know economy.
But learning about the economic systems also teaches the students about individuals' personal power and their ability to have an influence on the economy.