Last Monday, my Grade 1-4 students submitted their major media projects. I was totally blown away by what I saw, and by what happened afterwards.
Along the left side of this post, you will see just a small sample of the many projects students shared as part of this task.
I could tell that several projects were finished with help from home - and that was just fine with me. My blog post from a few weeks past explained why I was content with this sort of assistance. I welcomed each and every project with a great deal of enthusiasm and put them on display in the school library.
One class was very eager to take this project to a different level.
"Can we sell our things?", they asked.
Opening a market was not part of my initial plan,but they were super-eager, so I told the students that they had to confer with the principal. He happened to be passing through the library during one of their periods with me, so he stopped and heard their proposal. I didn't know what he'd say, since we are still on a "pause" and our school's interpretation of this action suggests that teachers refrain from handling money. He came up with an ingenious compromise.
"Instead of getting money, why don't you have people barter? Act like a trading post - see what goods or services people will offer in exchange for your product?"
Once the students wrapped their minds around this idea, they were even more excited. We put an announcement on the P.A. system - if people were interested in a project they saw in the library, they were to take a Post-It note and write their name and offer and attach it to the object of their desire.
Soon, crowds began to form in the library, as word of this unusual shopping centre spread. Some of the creations lent themselves more to multiple customers, especially the food-focused ones. There was a bit more work involved, as many of the primary students had offers from students in the junior-intermediate grades, and I had to arrange bargaining times. These entrepreneurs considered these negotiations very seriously. Then, teachers started to get in on the action. I myself had to offer things in exchange for a cookie or a brownie. As I tweeted one afternoon, "when would you ever work on a project for school and have others interested in buying it off you?".
One of the kindergarten teachers retold his experience with the enterprising students. (This is just an approximate quote.): "I offered them one mood ring for two cookies, and they counter-offered me! They said they'd accept two mood rings for two cookies, because two of them made the cookies. I asked them if they'd just share the ring - one girl could wear it Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and the other could have it from Thursday to Sunday, but they said no. I told them I'd have to consider their deal. I counter-offered them - two mood rings for three cookies, but they declined. We finally settled on two cookies for two rings."
Unfortunately, it wasn't all fun, games, and unexpected learning moments. One student was too tempted by the treats on display and stole two brownies from the box. Thankfully it was easy to determine what had happened - he still had chocolate crumbs all over his mouth. We had to talk about the seriousness of stealing and restitution. This incident meant I had to keep a close eye on all the projects to make sure that nothing else went missing. Unfortunately, a white chocolate car mysteriously vanished, but I'm not yet sure if it was traded away without my notification, or if it was stolen.
Another unexpected moment that grew from this market was a discussion on worth. We are so used to measuring value based on money (e.g. this chocolate bar is worth $1) that students had to really consider whether or not the offered item or action was worth the effort they put into creating the desired object. I was amazed to hear that the Rice Krispies / Wreck It Ralph car inspired a trade offer of a Wii game! I have to investigate that to make sure it's legitimate.