It's been an exciting few days in the garage as we have entered into the land of micro lending leading up to PBL. While I may be quoted as saying, "the structure of the 6th grade project doesn't need any work, I will just roll with it and put the effort into the hands-on time with the boys" I didn't exactly leave everything as is either. Having just walked away from an incredible few days at Kiva U Summit and having had the chance to work through some of the materials KIVA U has put forth, I wanted to work towards my goal of making the math concepts deliberate/intentional.
So, without much change, I read the book ONE HEN to the boys on Monday in class. The boys are always pretty interested in the reading and I had them reflect on Edmodo afterwards. Some of their responses are here:
On Tuesday we spent some time going through the One Hen simulation about trust groups. Having gone through this simulation a few times, I personally didn't want to get bored and needed to make sure that I helped inspire great conversation. I gave the boys the information on trust groups and compared and contrasted them to the less formal model that is shown in One Hen. I did this before giving them role play cards. The boys then spent a few minutes understanding who they were and making decisions about their lives. After they introduced themselves to the group we brainstormed community issues that we noticed in this village.
- Lack of food and nutrition
- Access to healthcare
- Large families with limited resources
- Access to loans and/or money
- Access to clean water and electricity
- Confined living space
- Limited transportation opportunities
- Limited access or financial means for education
- Women's rights and gender inequality
One of the questions that resonates with me is: "If the cost of uniforms is preventing kids from going to school, why do they need uniforms?" I don't have a lot of answers about poverty and lack of access to essential needs but this one really did make me think. I am looking forward to peoples thoughts and responses on this.
After talking about our community issues, we moved onto the second part of our role play, problem solving. One member is always unable to pay back the loan and we have to deal with how we can assist as a community. During the simulation the person who couldn't pay back had issues with collecting payments from their business. Above and beyond the idea of helping this individual payback the loan-immediate help- we talked about how we could support their business in the future. From buying products to helping them with collection process, all of this will be relevant as we consider launching our own businesses in the days to come. Of course, anger and emotional distress did lead the conversation at one point as they discussed collecting money from the people who hadn't paid up. Violence is not the answer is the message I had to send. So we had a small discussion on why violence may happen in these communities. Being able to reflect back on the poverty simulation they did in 5th grade really helped. I will also have to remind them of how they sometimes act when emotion is involved as we work on collaboration and other life skills in the coming months.
It was amazing how I was able to tie in a few stories from my travels so naturally this year, and giving myself the time to do it as well. Empowerment of women with loans led to conversations about my friends in Chilamate, while lack of access to needs lent itself to the townships of South Africa. These were ways that I was able to work my own empathy and better understanding of the developing world through travel into meaningful classroom conversations. It felt great to have these experiences in my toolkit and I continue to be thankful for the experiences Town has helped me have.
After the simulation it was time to bring in the math. So we talked about loans, both traditional and non traditional. The conversation started using KIVA U materials (grades 6-8), and we talked about the difference between cash, checks, credit, and debit. We also talked a little about bartering, which is obviously more common in other parts of the world. The boys were extremely interested and engaged. They wanted to talk about credit reports, the lesson of "never give your social security number to anyone" and using your credit card to gain air miles. We also talked about the banks as a business. All great lessons for these 12 year olds!
When it came to credit and loans, I introduced the formula for simple interest:
Interest = Principal x Rate x Time
We talked about interest rates as they pertain to credit scores the students were interested in fluctuating rates and why people with less money may have to take on higher rates. Made me smile inside when one student said, "Does't that mean the rich get richer and the poor get poorer? It should be the exact opposite". I like that they have exposure to what happens in this world in terms of financial access and opportunity.
In conclusion, the boys looked at rates here in San Francisco, before extending our conversation to Kiva. I had to explain what kiva really means when it says 0% interest and how that looks/is different at the lender vs field partner/borrower level. It's pretty well explained on the Kiva website and is an extension since last year in terms of teaching the concept. In fact, KIVA U materials on better lessons really helped me investigate the concept of Interest with the boys and may provide a few more twists in our modeling micro finance process this year. Time will tell.
It's been an exciting start and the energy is really amazing. The boys are on the edge of their seats waiting to hear the driving question... It's coming!!