This is a basic lesson of scarcity and resources that can be used for elementary students or students with special needs. Scarcity - is a condition that exists because human wants exceed the capacity of available resources to satisfy those wants; also a situation in which a resource has more than one valuable use. Students often get confused with the term resources. The basic kinds of resources used to produce goods and services: land or national resources, human resources (including labor and entrepreneurship), and capital. The following exercise gives the students a kinesthetic approach to the concepts of scarcity and resources. It is a musical chairs approach to learning these economic principles.
- Discuss the concepts of scarcity and resources in class with teacher-led discussion.
- Participate in a game of musical chairs ilustrating the concepts of scarcity and resources.
To begin this lesson the term scarcity must be defined for the students. Scarcity is a condition that exists because human wants exceed the capacity of available resources to satisfy those wants; also a situation in which a resource has more than one valuable use. The teacher
should then go into a discussion about wants. Allow the students to list three things they would buy if they had all the money in the world. Clearly identify that the items must be something that
can be purchased and not emotions or feelings. After the students have completed their lists, ask for volunteers to share the items on their list. After allowing students to share their responses with the class, ask what resources they need to purchase these items? Students usually will reply by saying “money,” although a few will say “mom or dad,” which leads to the question then what does mom or dad need to purchase the item? This leads to the discussion of resources.
Identify for the students that money is a resource. Resources are used to produce goods and services: land or natural resources, human resources (including labor and entrepreneuship), and capital. Identify for the students that money is a resource. Money as a resource helps people buy things. Then, explain scarcity to the class and ask them to give examples. Students are familiar with the concept of - not having enough money for everything they want. Then ask the students to volunteer to play a game. Prepare the room by placing chairs around the room and leave one less chair than the number of student volunteers.
Chairs for each student
Monster Musical Chairs: Students listen to the book Monster Musical Chairs and identify the scacity problem the monsters had.
Why Flip Flops are Summer Classics: More background information on flip flops for the extension activity.
1. Place chairs out in the room and leave one less than the number of volunteers.
2. Explain that the chairs in this exercise are the resources to satisfy a want. (The want of
course is to have a chair to sit in when the music stops.)
3. Quickly review the concept of musical chairs. Please walk around the chairs slowly not
touching them while the music is playing. When the music stops you need to find a chair
and be seated to stay in the game. If you are left standing, please step aside so that we can continue the game. Play the music and the children are excited. When the music stops they all rush to find a seat. ( As a side note: the first person out usually feels a bit defeated so make sure to thank them for participating in the exercise and give them acknowledgement for taking a chance.)
4. Then remove another chair so that there is still one chair short for the number of students participating in the activity. Some students get confused and ask why you keep removing chairs? This gives you a teaching moment to explain that some resources once depleted will not return.
5. Show some images of some scarce resources like land, oil, trees, gold, etc. Continue the game.
6. The final round takes place when there is one chair and two students playing for the same seat. The exercise is complete with one student left seated and one student standing.
As an exit slip, ask the students what they think happens to the price of things when the
resources to make the item are scarce? Provide the students with the example of oil/gas.
When there is not enough gas, what happens to the price of gas we need to purchase to for our
cars to run? Ask the students to define scarcity and resources in their own terms and give examples of each.
You can also ask the class to answer the following questions on the concepts that they have just learned:
1. Why does the condition of scarcity exist?
[There is only a limited number of resources relative to the unlimited wants of human beings.]
2. If we had added one more chair, would the chairs still be a scarce resource? [Yes, there may have been enough chairs for everyone to sit in, but there are other wants that would still be unsatisfied. Suppose that every student had a chair to sit in that would satisfy their first want (having a chair to sit in), but some of the students may have desired to put their feet up in addition to sitting down. As we introduce another want we see that the scarcity condition still exists even though there are enough chairs for everyone to sit down.]
Thank the volunteers and ask the students to explain what they just witnessed. The students usually have better examples of scarcity and resources following the game and have a good time while learning.
Ask the students to explain why they believe the prices for flip flops are more affordable in the summer?
Here are some other EconEdLink Lessons on scarcity and resources and other economic concepts that follow the introduction to scarcity and resources:
Also, you can incorporate the Monster Musical Chairs for further review on scarcity.
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