Grade 4 students have been engaged in an inquiry unit called "How We Organise Ourselves," with a focus on economics and the marketplace. They have learned about the relation between consumers and suppliers and have studied topics such as supply, demand, scarcity, ethics, profit and loss. Friday's Market Day was the culmination of that unit and a chance put their studies into action. Working in small groups, students experienced all of the excitement and challenges of operating a business for the morning.
For one bustling, energy-filled hour in the ICS Treffpunkt, families and other Primary students were eager consumers of the crafts, services, food, and games on offer. Shoppers could choose from a range of crafts including drawings, winter ornaments, fancily decorated pencils, and small containers of homemade slime that caused a snaking line of students eager to buy. The services offered were diverse: fingernails were painted, hair was sprayed a multitude of colours, and massages were given. Some shoppers tried to win carnival prizes by popping balloons, bowling, or navigating a ball through a labyrinth. The food items were also a hit – banana shakes, popcorn, brownies and hot dogs all brought an air of festivity to the morning.
The market's smooth operations and smiling faces were an indication of how much planning went into the day. Months ago students had started their market research, asking other Primary students what they would be interested in buying and how much they would pay. The business owners then sourced their materials, wrote business plans, and made calculations about expenses and revenues. Each group planned its business to make a profit. Then they all teamed up to create the products and organize the selling booths.
After the close of the market, the rest of the day was used for inventory, accounting, and reflection on what had been learned. But even before the event was over, it was clear the students had already discovered lots about the challenges of running a business. One remarked, "We learned to always test your product. This hairspray says 'instant colour' on the label but it didn't give any colour at all." Others talked about underestimating the demand for certain products: "We didn't make enough brownies. We ran out after 15 minutes." And one group received a crash course in supply shortages: "Somebody had already paid to have their hair sprayed, but then we ran out of blue. So we had buy some from the other booth for two francs." These are all the types of lessons that make interactive exercises the perfect complement to classroom theory.