Today we looked at a familiar story in a new way. Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree is a classic story, a favorite of many, and can be looked at through multiple lenses. Perhaps when you first read it you thought of the generosity of the tree and the youthful selfishness of the boy. Maybe the story made you think of the way close relationships change over time. Odds are you never read the book and contemplated the economic elements of the story, but that's exactly what we did today!
Instead of reading the story, we watched an animated version that was created and narrated by Shel Silverstein in 1973. You can watch the video by clicking the link at the top of this post.
Before listening to the story, the students were given an index card and told to divide it into 3 sections, labeled "G," "S," and "R." Immediately, a few students exclaimed, "goods, services, and resources!" Apparently I'm becoming predictable. As they listened, the students made lists in each category as they heard the elements in the story. The boy sold apples, so apples are a good. The tree was the resource that provided them. The tree provided the service of shade to the boy. The leaves and branches were the resources that made the shade!
After reading and discussing these elements, the 3rd graders were given another student's thinking to evaluate. This reminded them of today's learning target, which is "I can evaluate a scarcity situation and defend my opinion." They knew that this next activity would be what today's lesson was all about.
The basic question was this: is the tree in the story a scarce resource? Why or why not? They were told that a student named Yakov says that no, the tree is not a scarce resource. They were asked to pick a side -- either you agree with Yakov or you don't. Then we had a friendly debate. The students learned that a debate is not an argument, it is a friendly exchange of ideas and responses. We used a sentence template to frame our responses to keep the debate focused.
I was surprised at how well they stuck to the format, and how they really listened to the other side and adjusted their response accordingly. We even had a few students change their minds after hearing the other side's arguments.
We ended up at a place where we agreed that in the story only the boy wanted the tree, and the tree was able to give him everything he wanted; therefore, the tree was not a scarce resource. However, economically speaking, the tree would be considered scarce because other people could want the tree's resources and there wouldn't be enough to go around.
I have to say, I started out firmly on one side of this debate, and ended up not so sure. What do you think?
Running a business is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.
Or something like that.
What I'm trying to say is that taking a $280 loan from the PTO and spending over $60 on supplies was a risky move! But the 3rd graders were confident in their product, and passionate in their motivation to pay for Smokey's surgery.
If this is the first you're reading about our classroom business, be sure to check out the previous two posts that document our process. At this point in the story, we had just finished pitching our business to the director of the PTO, who agreed to fund the surgery on the stipulation that we could pay him back. After that, our business really got moving.
Step 5: Production
In order to make our wooden bracelets, we first needed to soak about 300 popsicle sticks in vases of water for 2 days. This allowed them to become flexible enough to bend into the shape of a bracelet. Once they were ready, the students carefully bent the popsicle sticks into shape and placed them inside mugs so that they would dry in the molded shape.
Next, the 3rd graders signed up for an assembly line job. We needed designers to apply the patterned tape, hole engineers to use awls to create holes in the ends, and cord fasteners to tie the hemp cord to the ends. The students wrote their student number beneath the job of their choice.
During production, we learned that each job in the assembly line depends on the job before it. When the designers put tape too close to the ends, the hole engineers had to send that bracelet back to production to be fixed. If the hole engineers didn't make their holes big enough, the cord fastener had to send it back to be fixed. Moments like these gave us many opportunities to practice giving respectful feedback and clearly communicating a problem and solution to another person.
Step 6: Advertise
A week before sales began, the students created posters to hang around the school. We looked at advertisements for companies like Target and for special deals in Kroger ads to get an idea of what type of information should be included in an advertisement.
Step 7: Sell Your Product!
After weeks of hard work and planning, the time finally came for us to sell our bracelets! Each day, two students got the chance to sell bracelets during all lunch periods. They took turns using the cash register and keeping track of our daily sales log.
After the first day of sales, our customers gave us some useful feedback. A few of the bracelets had an issue with the hemp cord sliding out of the ends. Like all good producers, we listened to our customers and upgraded our product by securing the ends with more washi tape.
In the end, Bunny Bracelets, Inc. made $330! This was enough to pay back our loan from the PTO and to pay for almost all of the supplies we bought. We learned so many tangible and intangible skills from this experience, and I know this is a 3rd grade memory that will last a lifetime.
Little people, big minds.