Grade 3-5

The Crow and the Pitcher

Updated: May 21 2015,
Author: Laura Leppanen

Students will learn about scarcity, and how entrepreneurial ideas, managing natural resources and trading can help lessen scarcity. Students will listen to the story, “The Crow and the Pitcher” from Aesop’s Fables, then participate in a trading activity to obtain crayons, and color a picture relating to the story.


This lesson focuses on scarcity, decision-making, trade, specialization, and entrepreneurship.

First, explain to the students that scarcity is when a person (or in this case, an animal) wants more of something than is available. Because of scarcity, people have to make choices. They must give up some things in order to have others. Scarcity exists all around us–money can be scarce if you don't have enough to buy lunch, natural resources can be scarce, such as oil used to make petrolium. Before making a decision, everyone should balance the additional benefits against additional costs of each alternative. When someone uses specialization, they focus on producing the things they do best at the lowest cost. They then trade those things with others to get what they want. Trade only happens when everyone's benefits exceed their costs. 

Learning Objectives

  • Listen to the story "The Crow and the Pitcher."
  • Interact in a trading activity and analyze how trading with classmates can lessen their scarcity problem.
  • Color a picture of the crow and the pitcher with crayons acquired from the trading activity.
  • Answer questions about scarcity and choices relating to the story.
  • Identify qualities of an entrepreneur using the crow as an example.
  • Apply economic concepts to another fable, "The Ants and the Grasshopper."

Resource List


READ the story "The Crow and the Pitcher" to the class.


In a spell of dry weather, when the birds could find very little to drink, a thirsty crow found a pitcher with a little water in it. But the pitcher was high and had a narrow neck, and no matter how it tried, the crow could not reach the water. The poor thing felt as if it must die of thirst.

Then an idea came to the crow. Picking up some small pebbles, it dropped them into the pitcher one by one. With each pebble the water rose a little higher until at last it was near enough so the crow could drink.

In a pinch a good use of our wits may help us out.

                                   taken from

Pass out crayons to the students, giving each child five of the same color. Explain that for them, scarcity is not having all the different colored crayons that they might want. Each student has an excess supply of one color, but that doesn't mean that color isn't scarce. In order to get more colors, they will have to trade with their classmates. Since each child has five crayons, and there may be more than five colors, they will have to choose which colors they want the most.

Allow them several minutes to interact and trade with each other. When they are done, pass out either blank paper or a and have the students color a picture of the crow and the pitcher.

If computers are available, the website may be used as an alternative for this exercise.


Explain to the class that the crow had an idea of how to get the water level to rise high enough so it could drink from the pitcher. The crow took a risk by choosing to stay at the pitcher instead of looking elsewhere for another water source. The crow demonstrated traits of an entrepreneur.  Tell the students that an entrepreneur is someone who discovers new ways of doing things, invents new products using productive resources, or finds a way to reduce costs of getting something. They take risks by starting new businesses. By using the resources at hand, the crow succeeded at getting water. The crow can now specialize in a business based on his ideas and trade with others. 

Go over the trading activity and have the students explain how they addressed their own scarcity problems. Then ask them about other things in their lives that are scarce, and different choices they must make.

One example is the scarcity of space. Students have a limited amount of space in their bedrooms, so they must decide how to use the space for their bed, toys, play space, a dresser, a desk or other things they may own. Money is also scarce. Because they can't own all the clothes in a store, students, parents, teachers, and others must select outfits they like the most, and their clothes are washed and worn again. Or, they can't wear all their clothes at the same time, so they must choose one outfit to wear at a time. They can't have all of the toys they want, so they must choose which ones they want the most. If a student is given money for their birthday, they can choose to spend it, save it, give to others, or a little of each. Since time is scarce, a person can't play basketball and soccer at the same time. They must decide which one they would rather play at that particular time. 

Extension Activity

Activity 1

This lesson can also incorporate a geography lesson. Ask the students the following questions. If computers are not available the questions and answers are given below so that they may be discussed verbally.

View Interactive Activity


  1. What kind of location would make the water scarce? [Desert, plains, island with no fresh water source]
  2. What are some natural causes of the water scarcity? [Natural disasters and weather hazards–tornado, earthquake, flood, hurricane, drought. The only other water available could be saltwater.]
  3. What are some human causes of water scarcity? [Pollution, over consumption-using in pool, watering lawns, population growth, competition with plants, animals and other people, use in agriculture, pollution]
  4. What events could solve the water scarcity? [Rain or snow, spring thaw, which can also cause excess supply, technology advances]

Activity 2


One bright day in late autumn a family of Ants were bustling about in the warm sunshine, drying out the grain they had stored up during the summer, when a starving Grasshopper, his fiddle under his arm, came up and humbly begged for a bite to eat.

"What!" cried the Ants in surprise, "haven't you stored anything away for the winter? What in the world were you doing all last summer?"

"I didn't have time to store up any food," whined the Grasshopper; "I was so busy making music that before I knew it the summer was gone."

The Ants shrugged their shoulders in disgust.

"Making music, were you?" they cried. "Very well; now dance!" And they turned their backs on the Grasshopper and went on with their work.

There's a time for work and a time for play.

taken from

Read the fable "The Ants and the Grasshopper" from Aesop's Fables  (page 34) to the class, or have them read it themselves, and ask them to apply the same economic concepts to this story. In this case it is summer and fall, and food supplies in the winter are scarce. Both the ants and the grasshopper had two choices: work or play. Explain that decisions we make today have consequence that lie in the future. Ask students how the ants managed their scarcity problem, and what the consequence was for the grasshopper who didn't prepare during the warmer months. You can explain how saving now helps us in the future. A secondary lesson in this fable is how the grasshopper can become an entrepreneur and use his specialization (music), as a means for trade. Ask students the following questions:

1.       Why didn’t the ants give the grasshopper any food?

[The grasshopper didn’t offer anything to trade.  The ants worked all summer and built up things to trade, while the grasshopper chose to play.]

2.       The grasshopper’s best ability seems to be playing music, while the ants are good at hauling heavy loads of food. What is this term called?


3.       What could the grasshopper offer in return for food to make a trade possible?

[Playing music throughout the winter for the ants; violin lessons; in exchange for food, the grasshopper could offer violin concerts to other bugs and insects; the grasshopper could play music in the summer make other workers more productive.]


Ask the students the following questions. If computers are not available the questions and answers are given below so that they may be discussed verbally.

View Interactive Activity


  1. What was scarce for the crow? [Water]
  2. Did the crow have an alternative choice to stopping for the pitcher of water? [Keep flying to find a more abundant water source.]
  3. What kind of natural resources did the crow use to get the water? [Natural resources, labor, entrepreneurial ideas, capital]
  4. If there is water left over, what choices does the crow have to do with the extra water? [Sell, trade, save or give to others]
  5. How could the crow reduce the water scarcity problem for others in the area? [Teach this method, be a guide to lead them to water sources]
  6. If the crow was a person, what could be done to solve the water scarcity problem for others? [Start his own business selling water, open a restaurant or grocery store.]
  7. What are some characteristics of the crow that would make the crow a good employee? [Creative, problem-solver, ingenuity, completing tasks.]
  8. How did trading with classmates make you better off? [Students started out with only one color, but by trading their crayons, they exchanged the crayons they valued less for ones that they valued more.]
  9. In the trading activity, did you exchange your crayons for others? Why or why not? [Both students benefited. This means that they liked the color they received (benefit) better than the color they gave up (cost).
  10. If you focus on just producing one or more kinds of goods and services to trade, what is this called? [Specialization]
  11. Did you specialize in something during the trading activity? What was it? [Yes. A certain color of crayon.]
  12. What unique talents, ideas or qualities do you have that you can use to trade with others? [Answers will vary, but some suggestions could be drawing or painting a picture, reading to someone, writing a story or poem, fixing toys or bicycles, building things, lifting heavy objects, organizing and sorting, singing]