Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Books from Other Countries by Wendy Buchanan

As a teacher, I am constantly looking for resources that will enhance the quality of educational opportunities for my classroom, while continually emphasizing the importance of my students’ responsibilities to their school community and families.  I try to encourage a “market,” if you will, among the people who help our students grow to be productive citizens – the parents and teachers who, together, educate our children. 

As a result, each year, I divide my class into groups where students must live as a fictitious family. They have to budget, balance a checkbook, invest in the stock market and learn about assigned countries of origin. They ended up learning about famous inventors from different countries, all the while developing valuable life skills.

After attending a Winning Ideas Weekend in San Francisco with my husband, a former izzit.org Teacher of the Year, I participated in izzit’s Win-Win Trading Game and knew instantly that I could use this activity in my own 4th grade classroom.  I finally understood some of what my husband had been talking about all these years. At first, I struggled with the economic concepts with which my husband wished to “enlighten” me. I resisted the idea of these concepts being taught at a grammar school level. But that all changed.

It was apparent that a key concept such as free trade and the benefits of a free-market competitive society, indeed, had a place in the elementary classroom! I was ecstatic about the possibility of exposing the winning ideas of freedom into the minds of these youngsters. The question of how this would happen lingered.

It wasn’t until two years later that the idea came to me… Each year our school receives donated books. So how could we distribute these books most effectively? We decided to use izzit’s Win-Win: A Trading Game. I viewed my free copy of the Win-Win Trading Game DVD to brush up on how it should be played. And it occurred to me that our “fictitious families” from all over the world would be the perfect situation to bring the concept of free trade to the fourth grade classroom. 

Students were asked to sit with their “family” in a “country-of-origin.” Each was given a book in a sealed paper bag. Students could either keep their book or trade with the other members of their family; suddenly they had a choice.  A discussion followed regarding their limited choices within their countries. Before the students understood where this lesson was going, they insisted on trading with “other countries.”

Trading was now permitted with the other countries, and students quickly began to search for those particular books that were of interest to them. They understood, firsthand, how the simple act of being able to trade freely with the class led to a major increase in their satisfaction.

Discussion turned to global trade and the clothing everyone was wearing that morning.  Clothing tags were identified, and the origin of the clothing was mapped out on individual student maps and on the large classroom map of the world. Students became aware of the global connection associated with their clothing, and witnessed a real life example of just how free trade makes more people satisfied. In the end, my students realized the much larger picture: our freedom to choose what we trade and with whom we trade makes for a better world.

By placing this video in my hands, izzit.org has given me the necessary tools to not only reach my students this year, but for years to come. I have already lent the DVD to my fellow grade-level teachers. And during our school’s next book giveaway, all 4th grade students will be participating in the trading game. With the addition of other “countries,” the overall satisfaction of the books donated will undoubtedly increase while promoting the concept of free trade.

By producing one high-quality video targeting a specific concept involving liberty, teachers have the opportunity to educate and enlighten millions of students, allowing them to become productive citizens. Thanks izzit.org!

“The most important single central fact about a free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit.”  -Milton Friedman