Wealth Matters

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Objectives: 

  • Students will learn about income distribution in a market economy.
  • Working in groups, students will prepare and follow a budget.
  • Working in groups, students will engage in problem solving.
  • Students will engage in reflective writing.
  • Students will understand how finances affect access to education, health care and other factors.

Materials Needed: 

  • Printed copy of the family profiles (PDF) (one profile is provided for each small group of four-to-six students) Note: Income levels of the families are based on data from the 2000 census as well as a recent occupational salary survey. The income levels of the families essentially represent median incomes in the different income quintiles and are "typical" for the occupations described. It is important to note that none of the families meet official definitions of "poor" or "marginally poor." As a result, they do not qualify for any social services.
  • Printed copies of budget costs (PDF) (one for each small group)
  • Printed "Life Happens" sheets (PDF), cut into cards and placed in a basket
  • Paper or notebooks for student journaling

This lesson was adapted for Teaching Tolerance from Life Happens, a game created by Tracy Ore, Assistant Professor at Saint Cloud State University, Department of Human Relations and Multicultural Education.

    Suggested Procedures

    Time Recommended: Five class periods, spread over four weeks

    Introduce the lesson objectives to students. Divide your class into small, diverse groups and assign to each group one of the provided family profiles. Explain to students that each of these families is dedicated to providing their children with 1) basic necessities, 2) the best education possible, 3) health care, and 4) fun time.

    During the first class period, each group should construct a monthly budget for its family, using the budget cost sheets. As a homework assignment, ask students to reflect on the difficulty or ease of creating the budget in their journals.

    During the second, third and fourth class periods, ask each group to draw a "Life Happens" card from the basket. Small groups should then rearrange their budgets, making difficult decisions, as necessary. As a homework assignment, ask students to reflect on the difficulty or ease of creating the revised budget in their journals.

    During final period, discuss groups' experiences as a whole class:

    • What did your family experience during the activity?
    • How did the families' financial situations change?
    • How were the families' experiences the same? How were they different?
    • How did wealth affect families' ability to withstand the "Life Happens" moments?
    • How did wealth affect families' abilities to provide 1) basic necessities, 2) the best education possible for their children, 3) health care, and 4) fun time?

    Allow students a final opportunity to reflect on their experiences with this lesson as a homework assignment. Collect journals for assessment.