It's A Livable Life? 5th Graders Discover Minimum Wage and the Working Poor

The past few days have been exciting in my 5th grade classes.  I continue to wonder how two sets of 10-12 kids, that spend so much time together on a daily basis, can process the same material so differnently in the classroom.  During my first two days of IT'S A LIVABLE LIFE, I discovered how different the conversations would go and I began to wonder where this project would take us.  

Welcome to my third driving question of the week:  How do we as future working citizens/permanent residents, ensure that there is a livable wage in our country?

This project was adapting during my 3 days at PBL World in Napa this summer.  Although if seeing 6:30 pm on Friday on Jackson is any indication, I am not sure 3 days was enough!  

Day 1:  Students Participate in Simulation Activity on "House Building" and choose amenities for their house accordingly.  Boys were given different "living" situations in the classroom as well as different supplies to draw their homes.  The actual drawing of the home really has nothing to do with it.  It's the emotion created when the boys start realizing the various levels of supplies and amenities that each group has.  So while the boys continue to wonder when they can finish their house and I continue to wonder when to find the time, I realize that the simulation did EXACTLY what I was looking for it to do.  

Within the simulation we discovered that the wealthiest groups had a lot of supplies and amenities that they just didn't need.  After awhile they discovered the possibility of giving to others.  The poorest of the groups felt wronged by the experience.  They grew bitter as they looked at the other groups around them and in one class they actually began to steal supplies.  This group ended up losing the stolen supplies and a given amenity to pay off their fine for stealing.  The group just above the poorest felt like life was really hard but began appreciating what they did have when they watch the poorest of the groups struggle.  The middle class group actually worked the hardest in the class during the activity.  They were the most focused on the task and paid little attention to the others positively or negatively.  

My Brainstorm of Words for this day:  Giving, stealing, decision making, arrogant, annoyed, sad, frustrated, bitter, jealous.  


Day 2:  The boys debriefed the simulation and looked ahead to what was next.  I offered the boys Situation Cards for their experience the day before. In all buy one case the boys situation had turned for the worse.  In one class the the wealthiest group was dealing with a natural disaster and they realized they had forgotten to chose insurance for their home.  This was the case in another group as well. The boys began to think about what was more important, an extra tv or insurance for the future.  Not one of the groups had chosen to save amenities and so each group lost except one.  One of the more interesting conversations we had to have was when the second wealthiest group got ahead of the wealthiest due to their positive card and the wealthiest groups loss of work.  They cheered.  While I realize it was the "game" of the simulation that they cheered for, we had to debrief why your neighbors job loss does't really have a positive effect on your wellbeing.  And in fact, for the poorest, that might mean less giving to charities that could help them.  This also led to a discussion on who works minimum wage jobs.


Day 3:  Today I introduced the driving question and the boys brainstormed things they felt they needed to know or wondered about.  They contributed helpful sites on Edmodo and brainstormed. It was surprising to hear them consider maximum wages and same wages for all, interesting to hear them discuss why minimum wage exists, who makes it, and why it is different in other states.  All in all, I am exicted about where this is going.  They started to question the global look at minimum wage as well, which was intriguing.  But we are going to look at that in January:)  

Stayed tuned for pics and videos... they will come:)  

Day 4: Computations-It is Math Class!