Opportunity cost. It's the economic theory describing the benefit given up by choosing one alternative over another. Adults face these types of decisions on a daily basis – foregoing the benefits of new car in order to take a special family vacation; passing up dinner at a fancy restaurant to eat at a more family-friendly venue; or skipping an hour of sleep to watch a movie starring a beloved actress.
But how does one explain this concept to Grade 4 students? Grade 10 ICS students who have been learning about economics recently had just that opportunity. They visited the Grade 4 students and, working in small groups, used creative and fun interactive exercises to teach this notion of opportunity cost. For the Grade 10 students, it was a lesson in how teaching a concept can be much more difficult than simply understanding it.
For the Grade 4 students, the experience tied in perfectly with their "Marketplace" unit of inquiry. They have been learning about how consumers purchase goods and services as well as the opportunities and responsibilities that producers have. To date they had covered topics such as supply, demand, scarcity, ethics, profit and loss.
In the exercises presented by the older students they had to choose between mutually exclusive alternatives: purchasing ingredients to make two regular cookies versus one fancy cookie; choosing between two types of shoes or two types of shirts; or weighing the choice of lots of fun versus fantastic grades. In each case the Grade 4 students had to describe why they chose as they did, and then list the opportunities they had lost by not choosing their second-best option.
Judging by the explanations given, the Grade 4 students picked up the concept quickly. And the Grade 10 students had clearly deepened their understanding of the concept by planning and teaching the exercises. In summary it was the type of creative, interdisciplinary learning that regularly happens at ICS, and the type of exercise that leads to lasting memories and impressions for all involved.