How do you teach grade school students the economic concept of scarcity? You ask them to make something but don’t give them all the tools they need.
That’s what Amy Lee did Feb. 13 at the Meaningful Economics and Entrepreneur (MEE) competition sponsored by the Spears School of Business at Oklahoma State University. A scarcity of needed supplies forced the 3rd, 4th and 5th graders to be creative.
Lee, director of the Oklahoma Council on Economic Education, brought the MEE competition to OSU for the first time with the help of the Spears Department of Economics. During the event, 165 students from throughout central Oklahoma filled the Student Union Ballroom where teams competed by making and promoting a product, in this case bookmarks.
“We're doing this in a really fun way,” said Lee. “They’re learning that economics and being smart with money is fun and exciting and not intimidating.”
The four-person teams learned to deal with shortages, such as not having enough scissors for each team member, by adopting an assembly-line process.
“We're teaching them in ways that they're not realizing that they're learning, which is the beauty of the competition,” Lee said.
Spears Business assistant professor of economics Laura Ahlstrom worked with OCEE to bring the contest to OSU, along with Department of Economics head Lee Adkins. Ahlstrom earned her doctorate in economic education at the University of Delaware where the idea for MEE competitions was created. One of the reasons she was hired at Spears Business was because of her specialized economics education. She says it’s never too early to teach young students about the concepts of economics, entrepreneurship and personal finance.
“Kids as young as kindergartners can understand the idea of scarcity and making choices, and these elementary students can understand supply and demand,” Ahlstrom said. “There’s a big push to try to get more economics in K to 12 curricula so students won’t have to wait until college to be exposed to these concepts.”
Along with producing a product, the competing students also developed ideas to solve a societal problem. “This is a cool part of the competition because they’re being asked to come up with an idea and develop a marketing plan for it,” Ahlstrom said. “What the council is doing with the MEE competition is a good way to bring these ideas into elementary schools and make them fun.”
Visit https://go.okstate.edu/undergraduate-academics/majors/economics-business.html to learn more about the OSU Department of Economics.