Grade 3-5

Goods and Services: Some are Private, Some are Not

Time: 90 mins,
Updated: October 18 2019,
Author: Julie Heath


Students will be able to:

  • Understand why taxes are collected.
  • Analyze which goods and services are provided by governments and which are provided by private businesses.

In this economics lesson, students will create a bulletin board town to learn about taxes.



Ask students if they have ever heard their parents talk about paying taxes. Ask if they have noticed that when they buy something, they pay more than the price that is on the price tag. Ask if they know why that is. Tell them that today, they will learn about taxes and the things taxes pay for. Ask students where they would call to report a broken swing set in the park. The answer is Parks Department. Write the answer on the bottom of the large sheet of paper.


Direct students’ attention to the blank bulletin board. Tell them that the bulletin board is a picture of their community. Ask what is missing. Possible answers might include houses, buildings, stores, and businesses. Tell students that they will help build their community and fill in some of these missing pieces.

Group Activity

Randomly distribute one card from either Private Goods and Services or Public Goods and Services to each student. Tell students to read the cards and write the answer to the question on the back of their cards. Tell students to look at the answers they wrote on the back of their cards. Ask them to share their answers. Use the Private Goods and Services PowerPoint and Public Goods and Services PowerPoint to guide the conversation. You may also use Goods and Services Guided Questions. Possible answers can include: movie theater, video store, sporting goods store, hair salon, restaurant, dry cleaner, car dealership, pet store, rental office, bank, bowling alley, dentist, clothing store, grocery store, stationery store, gas station, news stand, post office, highway department, library, school, sanitation department, zoo, recycling center, police station, parks department, bridge, traffic light, street signs.

Tell students that all their answers are examples of buildings and structures that are missing from their community. Explain that they will make construction-paper cutouts of structures that they have written on the back of their cards. Display answer, “parks department,” written on it. Show students the construction paper parks department as a model.

Give a piece of construction paper, scissors, and crayons to each student. Ask them to make their construction-paper structures. When they are finished, have them share their structures. Explain that some buildings and structures represent businesses. Businesses produce and sell goods and services to people. Some buildings and structures represent goods and services provided by the government to their citizens. Display the parks department cutout. Tape the appropriate card from Activity 2 on the construction paper cutout.

Distribute tape. Ask students to tape the cards from Activity 1 or Activity 2 on their construction paper structures so that the name of each structure is visible. Attach each structure to the bulletin board and label it “Our Community.” Draw roads and a river on the bulletin board. Use the guided discussion document to debrief their group work.

Individual Activity

Give students the Who Pays worksheet for them to complete on their own. Review the answers using Who Pays Answers for your reference. Ask students if they notice a pattern in their answer. Refer to the individual pays and benefits, private businesses provide; if taxpayers pay and everyone benefits, the government provides. Draw students’ attention to national parks in particular. Explain that while most of the funding for national parks comes from the government through taxes, parks do charge admission, so sometimes taxes are not enough to provide all of the funding needed for some government-provided goods and services.


Distribute the Goods and Services Exit Ticket handout. Have students complete the assessment and submit their answers before class ends.


Activity 1

Tell students that a fable is a short tale in which animals talk and a lesson is learned. Ask students to write a fable that teaches how goods and services provided by government benefit a community.

Activity 2


Distribute a copy of Detectives for Goods and Services to each student. Tell them they will be detectives looking for goods and services provided by government and private businesses. Ask students to read newspapers, listen to television and radio news stories, and walk through their community to look for examples. Instruct students to list five examples of private goods and services and five examples of goods and services provided by government. For each good or service listed, they should write where they obtained the information.


Miscellaneous Resources 

  • Large sheet of paper to cover a bulletin board
  • Assorted colors of construction paper, ½ sheet per student
  • Crayons and tape
  • Scissors, 1 pair per student
  • Construction-paper cutout of a building for the parks department.