How do you help high school students master the concept of graphing? Shower them in candy bars, of course! That’s how one group of Kendall students in the Global Economy course taught more than 90 visiting high school students during Junior Achievement in a Day on campus in December.
Led by School of Business professor John Frech and visiting professor Dr. Alberto Moreno Melgarejo, who is a faculty member at Universidad Europea in Madrid, the goal of the event is not only to immerse high school students in personal finance and global economics lectures, but also to help Kendall students master the content by requiring them to lead the sessions.
This year, students taught a variety of lessons, including supply and demand, which was demonstrated through an apple auction to determine an overall market price, and a comparative advantage game that compared various careers and the differences between graduating from high school and immediately entering the workforce versus enrolling at a college.
“Our students became subject matter experts,” Frech says. “The event also required them to choose the best approach to make the topics age-appropriate. Afterwards, our students shared that if they had to pick between a paper or a presentation at Junior Achievement in a Day, hands down they’d do JA.”
Captivating with Candy Bars
In the session about graphing, the students’ goal was to teach supply and demand. To make the topic interesting, they centered the lesson on a candy bar—something that holds every kid’s attention. They started by drawing an X and Y coordinate on a magnetic white board and asked the students to pretend they were candy bar consumers. Then they posed a series of questions: If we were giving them away today, how many of you would take a free bar? All of the high school students raised their hands, which led the Kendall team to put a magnetic circle where the X and Y meet, with a string attached.
Next, they asked: What if we were all going to a movie that sells the candy bars for .50 each? Who would buy them? All but one of the students raised their hands. The team added the next magnet and connected the string to the second magnet. Now—we’re going to a grocery store, where the candy bars sell for $1 each. Who would buy them? All but two students raised their hands. The team placed another magnet on that intersection and extended the string to the third item. They kept asking a similar question until no one in the audience raised their hand. What resulted was a string connected by magnets that went from the upper left to lower right, which showed demand.
Next, the presenters asked students to consider their approach if they were the makers of the candy bars. A new string appeared after similar questions were asked, going from the lower left to the upper right. Where the strings met at an X marking the equilibrium price of the candy bars—the price the supplier and consumer agreed upon.
“All of the kids were absolutely captivated,” says Frech. “They understood the concept right away because the lesson made learning fun.” (It didn’t hurt that the students were rewarded with candy bars either!) And their teachers, who were also in attendance, were excited as they saw their students faces light up. “Several shared later that they plan to use the same idea in their classrooms to reinforce the lesson.”
“Our students rise to the challenge,” Frech continues. “Through this presentation, they demonstrate that they are mastering the topics we’re teaching at Kendall.”
A Multicultural Classroom
The Kendall students also represented the global economy—hailing from 11 countries, including Australia, Bhutan, Brazil, China, Colombia, Jordan, Mexico, Romania, Venezuela, Vietnam and the United States. Since many of the high school students are Latino, the faculty made the experience more fulfilling by ensuring that a Spanish-speaker was available on each team to reinforce the instructions or answer questions.
“We have a lot of study abroad students from many backgrounds—multiculturalism is normal for our class,” Dr. Moreno shares. “Our students also reinforced their lessons by projecting videos to help students understand. Every team was finding new ways to convey their messages.”
“This was a memorable and very rewarding experience,” Maya Tom says. “It not only shows what I have learned in this course, but also let me show these students what I love to do. Kendall has helped shape me into a great hospitality major with a passion to learn more and more every day.”
Mikaela Turner was equally rewarded. “The presentation made me feel like I was making a difference in these students’ lives,” she explains. “When we first started the career path game, the majority of the students were planning to begin working immediately or didn’t know what they wanted to do. But after playing the game, more than three quarters of the students wanted to explore the options of college.”
“I learned more from the students than they did from me!” Kevin O’Neill laughs. “I learned how to grab an audience and why it’s so important to give all kids a chance. By the end of the activity, they were all involved and loving the challenge.”
“This was valuable and definitely an unforgettable experience,” says Phoebe Yu. “By teaching the students economics concepts, we, as college students, grasped these lessons more deeply and became more knowledgeable about the world of economics.”