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First-grade students honed their critical thinking skills with their in-depth investigation of their neighborhood’s underlying economic microcosm. They presented their findings to families during their Signature Program through an all-grade video, reflective book study, and live marketplace.

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“The journey starts with who and what is in the neighborhood,” explained First Grade teacher Nikita Desai. Through immersive studies both in and out of the classroom, students learned about the important differences between wants and needs, consumers and producers – including a lesson in taxation. “We took it a step further and in order to assess their learning, they played the roles of producers, intentionally creating and selling bookmarks, cards, plants, and bracelets,” added Mrs. Desai. 

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During their field research, first graders visited several businesses in the Locust Valley neighborhood, including the library (“It used to have a bowling alley!”); the chemist (“You need medicine when you are sick”); and numerous others. During their travels, students categorized each service into a want or need and explained how every place of business contributed to the community. 

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For a local coffee shop, Karmic Grind, one first grader labeled their services as a “want” – “You don’t need chocolate or coffee survive,” but it sure “helps give adults what they need before work.” (Wise words!)

In their reflective work, students pondered the impact on the community should the business or service not exist. If there were no police, “we would have no one to call for help,” surmised one student. 

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“Our reflection allowed for great team building,” remarked Mrs. Desai, “whether that was how they thought about how they consume goods or arriving at a catchy slogan for their goods.” 

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At the center of the program, and the Kumar Wang Library, students and teachers had erected the First Grade Marketplace that sported colorful trifold posters with photos of business owners, prices, a slogan, and the business’ value proposition. Planty Plants sold seedlings of basil, lavender, and sunflowers; Hearts to Cards displayed vibrant care cards and promised that “They can help relationships” if only you can “Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.”

“This was an application of what they had learned,” said Mrs. Desai. “And each product was created with purpose. For example, they chose seeds like lavender that can repel mosquitos; marigolds to keep away critters; and celebrated affirmation with bracelets and cards – making someone feel good and lifting them up.” 

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In addition to exploring economics, students practiced persuasive public speaking, interpersonal interaction, and mathematics through their work with currency. “In group work, we practiced the Quaker Testimonies of Community, Simplicity, and Stewardship – was every voice heard and are we being mindful of what we are buying? Do we need everything we buy in our lives?” commented Mrs. Desai. 

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As the event closed with a moment of silence, Mrs. Desai reflected on the learning over the past several weeks – “Your children are off to a great start in how they use economics!”

Photos by Alvin Caal/Friends Academy

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