Simulation on Economic Scarcity, Monday-Tuesday, September 19-20

Kim Thacker
The whole school participated in a simulation to experience the choices families need to make who struggle with having enough money on a monthly basis.
The whole school participated in a simulation to experience the choices families who struggle with having enough money every month need to make. Students were in "family groups" with classmates, and a teacher imagined income from two hard-working parents in jobs that paid minimum wage or a little more. They started with a certain amount of "cubes" as their monthly income to buy basics such as rent, insurance, gas or bus passes, doctor services, clothes, and shoes, and extras such as new backpacks, birthday cake, pet supplies, nicer clothes, and toys. They did not have enough cubes to buy everything, especially "extras" or the more excellent or desirable items they might want.

Upper-grade students engaged in a "second month" where families experienced a significant problem, such as one parent losing a job, a steep rent increase and a broken down vehicle, or a major medical problem. Decisions became harder, and many families had to move out of the area because they couldn't afford even a studio apartment, making the connection to how easily a family can fall into homelessness how frustrating. Heart-breaking that would be, and how most people want to work hard to regain stable jobs and housing. We also discussed tensions and arguments and how stronger these feelings would be if this were real life.

Reflections from Students:

"I learned that a lot of people don't have enough money to live in a nice house because they have to spend a lot of money on food and they have only a little bit left on rent… many of these people work full-time jobs, but they just get paid very little more than minimum wage." - Iris, G4.

"I think people are working hard, but the job isn't paying them enough money." - Orion, G3.

"It's a very tricky lifestyle because some people don't have food, not good education, and some don't even sleep on a bed. So sometimes they can't even eat every night, maybe they'll get very sick because they can't afford medical insurance." - Lucas, G5.

"I was a store owner, and multiple times people would come to my store, and they would talk about how if they get one thing, then they couldn't have food, and they would ask for a discount, and I would have to say no. And I thought wow, is this what it's like?" - Maya, G5.

"I saw many people making decisions like, should I get a pet or get balloons for my party? Imagine choosing between getting new shoes or getting a present for your friends. And some of these people have to live in their car just because they aren't getting paid enough." - Charlotte, G5.

"I learned to be grateful for everything I have because there are people who don't have everything they need, and to share everything I have… we should at least try to help everyone who is having a rough life because you don't know about what they have gone through and you might even change their life." - Rafae, G5.

"I was empathetic because it was just an hour-long simulation for us. I can't imagine what it would be like to live like that. However, I also now understand that every boy and I at Trinity is fortunate to be able to take for granted that they have enough money for basic needs." - Thomas, G5.

"Having empathy and compassion is good because it is a good thing to believe in people." - Ben, G4.

"I learned that it is tough to live with such little money… we are fortunate to have enough money, and we should have more empathy and compassion for all the people who don't have enough money to get all their wants and sometimes even needs… It would help if you didn't worry about petty little things." - Carmen, G4.

"I realized how hard it is to live without enough money for everyday needs, and I learned to be more thankful for what I have and not be so greedy. "- Lorenzo, G5.

"Some things we could learn from the kids that don't have much money is that we should always be grateful because some kids don't have that money, and even for their birthday, they might not get anything, so we should be grateful for what we have." - Mia, G5.

"I learned that you can argue with your siblings because your family has very little money and how much your family tries to get more, and once they do, all they can spend it on is what they need." - Arianna, G3.

"I did not know being poor was this hard. You have to make tough decisions." - Niyaa, G3.

"I feel bad because they don't have enough money for what they want like new school supplies or toys… sometimes they don't have their basic needs and probably will never have what they want! We could learn not to be greedy and to work with what we have and not want much more." - Everest, G4.

"I think we could learn to be kinder and more willing to help people who need various things." - Casey, G5.

"We shouldn't take anything for granted, especially stuff that we want… we can learn from kids who don't have any money… to be more creative when bored." - Jackson H, G4.

"We could learn to be grateful for everything we have and to take nothing for granted. They could fully change our perspective in life; we could be different people after learning about the life that they're going through." - Alexa, G4.

Next week we will have our first monthly food drive to help families in our area who struggle with having enough money for their needs and necessities. We donate our food to Ecumenical Hunger Project based in East Palo Alto, which distributes food boxes weekly to 400-450 families and individuals experiencing food insecurity. This link shares stories from some of the people they serve, 

I passed many groups in the simulation discussing getting the shoes or food they needed and forgoing toys or designing backpacks and clothes they wanted. With Halloween approaching next week, we will also be collecting costume pieces for LifeMoves. Two weeks ago, we had a speaker from LifeMoves, a network of shelters and services helping families and individuals experiencing homelessness to regain secure housing and jobs in our area. They provide opportunities for their families to create their Halloween costumes, offering kids and parents choices and creativity.