Beacon Lesson Plan Library
Economics on a SeeSaw
DescriptionComparing a playground seesaw to the economy, students define a basic vocabulary of economic terms and place types of goods and wages on a sketch of a playground seesaw.
ObjectivesThe student understands how many financial and nonfinancial factors (e.g., cultural traditions, profit, and risk) motivate consumers, producers, workers, savers, and investors to allocate their scarce resources differently.
Materials-Word list of terms to be used
-Copy of seesaw sketch (see associated file)
-Boxes of rocks, gravel, etc.
-Tape to keep boxes on seesaw, double sided or scotch
Preparations1. Copy word list for each student. (See attached file.)
2. Copy seesaw sketch for each student. (See attached file.)
3. Make basic seesaw, 24 to 36 in. long, using heavy meter stick or board and eraser, etc.)
4. Obtain six boxes, ˝ pint milk cartons, pint plastic cups or bottles
5. Gather pictures of consumer wants, i.e. house, car, watch, clothes .
6. Gather pictures of government wants, i.e. government buildings, tank, military, navy ships
7. Gather pictures of private wants, i.e. factories, machines, radio/TV stations
8. Have boxes labeled appropriately. (see procedures)
Procedures1. Ask students if they have been to a playground lately. Since many have nearby parks, they would be familiar with the play equipment. Ask students how many of them have played on a seesaw.
2. ASk what happens when people of the same weight sit on each side of the seesaw? (The seesaw is in balance; each person in turn moves it up and down.)What happens when people over 200 lbs. sit on either side of the seesaw? (The seesaw is still in balance because size doesn’t matter, equality of weight.) What happens when one person over 200 lbs. sits on one side and one of 115 sits on the other? (Now the seesaw is not in balance; it may stick on one side or the other, unequal weights.)
3. Divide students into groups.
4. Distribute word lists. Have students define words in their own way. Compare answers to definitions within group. Discuss answers between groups. Teacher will correct any misconceptions, complete any incomplete definitions (in economic terms, a want will be a good or product that you may desire, such as a Rolex watch, a new car, or name-brand clothes). Time taken at this point will help later so the students will understand terms used in economics for the rest of unit. All students are encouraged to offer explanations and opinions, as well as demonstrate understanding.
5. Distribute the seesaw sketch. The teacher may copy it on the reverse side of terms. Place the handmade copy of seesaw in visible location. Ask what is an example of a consumer want (new house, new car etc.). Use that answer to be represented as a rock or piece of gravel placed into one of the boxes, labeled Consumer Goods. Use another piece of gravel about the same size for the other box, representing the cost of producing that item (emphasis on wages). Continue until about the same number of pieces (weights) have been placed into each box.
6. Ask what is an example of a private want or factor of production (machine or factory). Use that answer to be represented as a rock or piece of gravel and place item into one of the boxes, labeled Private Goods. Use another piece of gravel about the same size for the other box, representing the cost of producing that item (emphasis on wages), continue until about the same number of pieces (weights) have been placed into each box.
7. Ask what is an example of a government want (tanks, ships, government offices). Use that answer to be represented as a rock or piece of gravel place into one of the boxes, labeled Government Goods. Use another piece of gravel about the same size for the other box, representing the cost of producing that item (emphasis on wages), continue until about the same number of pieces (weights) have been placed into each box.
8. Check and show that each pair of boxes, the goods boxes is close to the same weight as the wages boxes on the seesaw. (This is showing that all goods made will be represented by an equal amount of money).
9. Students should copy types of goods in each box and the represented dollar value of each.
10. Place all six boxes on the seesaw with goods on the supply side and wages on the demand side. Since Government Goods are unavailable for purchase, remove that box. Since most private goods are also unavailable, remove one half of that box's contents. Leave the wages or money the same since these goods were produced and paid for.
11. The seesaw is now unbalanced. Groups are asked to discuss ways of balancing the seesaw again. (The increase of taxes will reduce the supply of money and the increase of imports will increase the supply of goods available for purchase). Participation of all students will be encouraged and each group will be asked to sum their responses and contribute to a class consensus.
12. Explain that there may be no way to fully balance the seesaw, and that this will cause an increase in prices, or inflation. If there are too few goods being made and sold (reducing the weight of the wages box) because there is no market for them, this imbalance is called recession/depression. (A recession is when your neighbor is out of work, but a depression is when you are unemployed.)
13. Explain that this is an introduction to each of these problems and later in the unit you will explore each problem in more detail as to cause and corrections.
14. Assess the activity. (See assessment.)
AssessmentsFormatively assess students on:
--Each student should have completed the sketch of the seesaw, labeling each type of goods and wages.
--Accurate completion of vocabulary terms
--Appropriate participation in group and class discussion
--Written explanation of concept or more money or more goods and how taxes (government) affect money supplies. Students will be able to discuss ways to return the seesaw to balance. Points of emphasis would be the increase of prices, supply, and role of taxes.
ExtensionsThis is an introductory lesson into the role of supply and demand in the economy. This could be used as an explanation for all types of economic conditions to be used in a unit of economics, such as inflation and the role of government in banking and the Federal Reserve (money supply). This could also be used as a basis for the explanation of depression and a falling economy (labor market), and all market operations in a free market economy, as compared to a controlled market economy.
Attached FilesA vocabulary list and a sketch of a seesaw. File Extension: pdf
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