A mini society
Strawberry Park Elementary School students put economic concepts to use at 'Selling Day'
Steamboat Springs — For about an hour last Wednesday, Strawberry Park Elementary School’s main hall had all the semblances of an Old World marketplace.
At the far end of the brick-lined hall, pint-sized business people peddled an eclectic variety of handmade products. The savvy third-graders offered consumers specialty services, prices were slashed, deals were made and wads of money changed hands.
It was “Selling Day” for the school’s third-graders, a culmination of more than a month of studying economics.
The economics unit, dubbed “Mini Society” by the school, introduces third-graders to business concepts such as supply and demand, opportunity cost, profit and loss, capital resources and natural resources, assembly line production and individual production, and goods and services.
Goods and services were at the heart of Selling Day, when anxious students eagerly sold their handmade products or offered their services to proud parents and teachers.
Sitting atop a table, third-grader Hanna Porteous massaged one parent’s back. For $15 — each class came up with its own form of currency — Hanna gave five-minute massages. Hanna was one of several students who offered a service instead of a product.
“She thought it sounded like a good idea because it was so popular a couple years ago when her sister did it,” said Barb Porteous, Hanna’s mother. “I asked her if she’d practice on me, but she said she knew what she was doing.”
Judging by the relaxed look on the faces of those receiving massages, Hanna may have been right.
Tommy Lyon sold birdseed cakes in the shape of birdhouses, complete with string to hang the cakes from a tree branch. It wasn’t long before Tommy sold out of his product.
“I made 64, my mom kept five, one broke and I sold 58,” Tommy said proudly.
At $10 apiece, Tommy did well for himself and even learned a little math in the process.
“You need to know how to make change,” he said.
Ali Diehl sold a variety of handmade products, including cloth bags, magnets and booklets.
During the frenzied hour of buying and selling, Ali learned firsthand some of the difficulties of operating a business.
“You’ve got to always stay with your things if you don’t want people to steal your stuff,” she said. “It’s hard.”
Teachers try to make the mini society unit as realistic as possible while making the concepts of economics fun and easy to understand, teacher Susan Ogden said.
“It’s amazing to me how much they learn, even at a basic level,” Ogden said. “We try to keep it as real as we can, but when it comes to the selling fair, we try to make it fun.”
Students were required to keep track of the money they spent on product materials, as well as the amount of time their parents helped them. Students paid parents $10 an hour for labor.
The third-graders also kept business ledgers, which they will use to help them determine the final profits or losses of their business.
“It helps them in everyday life,” teacher Cathy Hillman said of the Mini Society unit. “It’s real-world applications that make the unit.”
“It’s such a motivation to the students to create a business and use their imagination to see what they can do,” Hillman said. “It gives them a heads-up and gives them an idea about what the business world is like.”
Many of the parents who attended Selling Day were as excited about the unit as their children were.
“It was awesome,” Bette Vandahl said. “The products they made were very creative.”
“It gives them a whole idea about how commerce works,” parent Mike Loomis said.
If Mini Society is a glimpse of things to come, the future of Routt County commerce is in good hands.
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