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To buy or not to buy … BRE third graders become smart consumers

Kambree, Kate and Svea work on their poster for “people who buy”
in the initial stages of Mrs. Kennedy’s consumer unit.

Article and photo by Elean Gersack

In January, third graders in Mrs. Kennedy’s class at Buffalo Ridge Elementary (BRE) dove headfirst into economics with a consumer awareness unit. As a Colorado state standard, third graders are required to understand the difference between the two as well as recognize various forms of exchange and comprehend how goods and services affect businesses and consumers.

Kennedy focused on essential questions as she prepared the unit: What would happen if there was no such item as money? Would you rather be a producer, a consumer, or a mix of both? What happens when a producer cannot make enough to meet consumer demand? What would happen if consumers did not want what a producer made?

The unit started with small groups tasked with becoming topic experts in the fundamentals of consumerism: bartering, people who work, people who buy, and the world marketplace. The groups then presented their knowledge to the entire class. Kennedy refers to this as engagement strategy 101, meaning every child is engaged.

Students then learned about how companies use advertising to persuade people to buy. By watching a string of commercials on YouTube, they learned about strategies like the bandwagon effect (everyone else is using it so you should, too), emotional appeal (using emotions to convince you to buy), and testimonials (celebrities pitching a product).

“In commercials, they try to get your attention but things are not always as good as they seem,” said third-grader Cole N.

Students concluded the unit by collaborating in teams to create a problem-solving product along with a convincing commercial. Some of the products included an automatic pencil (you speak, it writes); a remote control chore bed (it cleans up your room); and an ATM phone (it dispenses cash from your bank account).

“I wanted a unit where my third graders can first be aware of themselves as producers and/or consumers and also how advertising online or in TV commercials try to sell consumers items,” said Kennedy.

She hopes that her students become more conscious consumers and that they will think about what they are buying and if they are getting a good value.

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