Monday, November 7, 2011

Three Resources for Teaching About Surviving on Minimum Wage

Teaching economics is one of my favorite things to do each year. A big part of the reason that I enjoy teaching economics is that learning about money gets my students excited about class. Another reason that it's fun to teach is that economics easily lends itself to simulation activities that get kids actively engaged in learning. In the past I've used simulations created by the Buck Institute and simulations created by Biz Ed. While those simulations are good, I've always wanted something that students could personalize just little bit more. Therefore, a couple of years ago I created the outline and materials for a simulation about living on minimum wage in the United States.

The purpose of Life on Minimum Wage is for students to recognize how difficult it is to save money when your only job(s) pay minimum wage without benefits. To win (prize not determined yet) at Life on Minimum Wage the students have to reach five financial goals that they select. To earn money the students have to complete the tasks of their assigned jobs. The students then have to pay required bills before using money for their selected financial goals. As the game progresses students will be issued "surprise" cards which require them to spend money on things like speeding tickets, trips to a health clinic, and increases in rent.

All of the jobs in Life on Minimum Wage are connected so that if one "business" slows production or closes, the workers of another business are also effected. The goal here is to demonstrate the effects of a business closing on a small town's economy.

I've published all of the rules of the game and needed "cards" as a Google Document which you can view here. I would love to hear feedback for improvement from anyone that has done a similar activity. Please note, that I designed this activity with a rural Maine population in mind. Therefore, some aspects of the activity might need alteration if you want to use the activity in your classroom. For example, if you're in Florida you might want to replace the goal of "buying a snowmobile" with "buying a jet ski."

Life on Minimum Wage - Lesson Plan -

Spent is an online game designed to teach players about the challenges of living on minimum wage (or slightly higher) employment. Players begin by selecting a job which will provide the wages they have to survive on for a month. Then throughout the game players are confronted with challenges that they have to handle by making an "either or" choice. After each choice the player's account balance is adjusted. In addition to the change in the player's balance sheet, each choice is followed by an explanation of consequence of the choice made.

Uninsured in the Mississippi Delta is a short documentary about the struggles of people working minimum wage jobs faced with the choice of buying food or health insurance. The film focuses on the Mississippi Delta region because it is one of the most uninsured areas in the United States. You can watch the beginning of the video below or watch the entire video on the Snag Films website.