Monday, December 8, 2003

Fourth-graders get lessons in economics

By William Croyle
Enquirer contributor

FLORENCE - It took 9-year-old Tyler Kidwell of Florence just a few minutes to come up with what could one day be the hottest selling ice cream in local stores.

"Vanilla Mint Fudge Galore!" he said excitedly to his classmates.

The concoction of ice cream, vanilla, mint and fudge was Tyler's invention during an exercise in a class called "Innovation and the Entrepreneur."

The 45-minute class was one of five taught to the 150 fourth-graders at Erpenbeck Elementary School by two Northern Kentucky University professors and 35 NKU education students during a recent economics conference at Erpenbeck.

"They did very well. Their brainstorming skills and creativity were phenomenal," said Angie Collins, a junior at NKU who taught the ice cream exercise to the kids.

"I think it helped them understand what goes into coming up with an idea and a business, and that you have to have money and resources."

The conference Friday was the brainchild of NKU College of Education assistant professor Kimberly Code and Erpenbeck fourth-grade teacher Patty Giesler.

The pair thought it would be a fun way to teach students the basics of economics. Economics is part of the social studies core content for fourth-graders in Kentucky, and is a requirement of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The students got a chance to do hands-on activities while learning economic concepts such as advertising, profit and loss, entrepreneurship, and supply and demand.

"They love this because it's fun, and they'll remember it," Giesler said. "They need to make good consumer choices themselves, and we can't expect kids not exposed to this to become teenagers and make good economic choices."

Other classes included:

• "Our Global Community," which taught kids about human, natural and capital resources through a card game.

• "Regulation Rigamarole," where kids had to make necklaces of beads, but with government regulations thrown at them throughout the process.

• "Why Do I Want All This Stuff" focused on advertising and how it entices people.

• "Creative Toy Production," where kids had to make toys out of miscellaneous craft items at a cost below the selling price.

"I learned about profit," said 9-year-old Jenna Crittenden of Florence, who made a drum with three classmates in the toy class for a company they called Drum Mania.

It cost them $3 to make the drum out of a plastic cup, felt, straws and cotton balls. They sold it for $5, giving them a 67 percent profit margin.



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