Armed with play money and an appetite for candy, Hephzibah High School students experienced the economic principles they had been studying in their textbooks.
Through a Junior Achievement economics program, supply and demand became concepts that the students could grasp, understand and even eat, rather than mere words in a book.
Using Kit Kat candy bars and Starbursts, the students learned how price affects demand and customers' willingness and ability to buy, even with play money.
The candy was auctioned off starting with high prices and going down in price with each round of the auction. The students, worried that candy would run out, demonstrated that the lower the price, the more consumers will buy. The class charted the number of candy consumers at each price.
That's something they could relate to more than the lessons of the textbooks, 17-year-old Bridgette Schierer said.
"I'm a carhop at Sonic, so I deal with money all day long," Bridgette said. "When I go shopping, that's what we're learning in the textbook."
From shopping to rising gas prices, the concepts of economics can be seen every day and everywhere, said Dawn Violette, the manager of education for the Junior Achievement of Georgia Augusta District, who led the classroom activity. The weekly hands-on activities reinforce and supplement the lessons delivered by the regular classroom teacher and are aligned with the state's curriculum.
Alex Travis, 17, said the lessons follow the textbook, but he prefers the hands-on approach because it makes learning the material easier.
Economics teacher Sandra West said the Junior Achievement lessons "bring it home."
Also realizing the importance of connecting the lessons in books with life outside the classroom, Mrs. West said she continually uses examples in class and pushes her students to apply what they learn to their lives and their community.
"I think they need to start understanding economics and money and decision-making at a young age so they can make responsible decisions when they're adults," she said. "You always want students to understand the value of money."
But it's also essential for test scores, getting a job and basic household finance, said Will Rogers, a senior financial adviser for Ameriprise Financial and a Junior Achievement volunteer.
Standardized test scores in economics are awful, he said. In the 2003-04 school year, 73 percent of Richmond County students failed the economics portion of the End of Course Test. That improved to 56 percent last year. In Columbia County, 54.5 percent failed the economics test.
"I make a very good living, in my opinion, teaching people what they should have learned in high school," Mr. Rogers said.
He works exclusively with clients with half a million dollars or more, but still finds himself teaching the basics, he said.
Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.