The Island of Ablai (pt. 4)
Pt. 3 Money Matters
Pt 4 - Negotiating the World
This section was challenging. We took our categories from yesterdays activity, and we created a world with them. To keep our world simple, but not too simple (the complexity is a major part of doing this) we broke our Economy (though I still haven't introduced this word, we keep referring to it as our money system) into the following parts:
We went through each, one by one, and came up with some parameters to define and limit each.
I asked them to name me some major cities that they know. New York. Tokyo. London. We searched the populations of each of these on the iPads and found that these were huge metropolis. The group decided that this would be too big, we instead we decided to model our city on our own city (much like they did with the weather and natural surroundings, interesting that when given free reign to create their own world, how much kids will mirror their own), which has about 1 000 000.
To put things in scale, I drew a picture on the board with some rough estimates of populations (I know they are not perfectly accurate, but off the top of my head).
Understanding and conceptualizing very large numbers is a hard thing to do, but I am convinced, incredibly important for math understanding, and ecological intelligence (see a paper by Moshe Renert called Mathematics for Life for more about this topic).
We didn't spend a lot of time on this. We brainstormed a list of other currency names and their symbols. I differentiated between those currencies that use a decimal system (most western nations) and those that do not (most Asian nations). They decided that we would NOT use a decimal based currency, simply because the math would be easier. I was hoping they WOULD chose a decimal based money system BECAUSE the math would be more difficult, but I was outvoted. Democracy sucks when you lose.
In he end they called our currency the Bubs, and it is drawn with a B and a vertical line through it. Bubs comes from Bubbles, which is their favorite word (don't ask, I have no idea).
This was fascinating. I asked them how the people on the island will get around. One suggested cars. Another said cars cause too much pollution and accidents. Another said they were convenient then another fought back and said trains are better. I interrupted and set up a little activity. The premise was a If/Then brainstorming activity.
If we have CARS, then we will also have.....
This web made them really think outside of their zone of comfort. Cars become a major part of the landscape of a country. We took the same activity and applied it to Bikes, Trains, Buses, and Boats.
In the end, the group consensus was that we would have a series of electric trains running all over the city and Island, and that most people would get around with bikes and by foot.
If only the real world were like that....
So, what powers all those trains? Where does our electricity come from?
Again, we made a list of all our options. This is such a huge topic, one that we could spend an entire unit investigating (an entire year!). Our High school class is doing energy at the moment, so we decided to keep it simple. Since we said that our Island had an active volcano and onsen (during the first class when we created the natural environment) the kids thought that geothermal would be the best choice.
To be honest with you, I would like us to focus more on other aspects of economies, and I don't want to get bogged down in Energy policy. I will orient attention to it, and have them think about how important it is during our next unit on Eco-systems and Sustainability.... for now, we will assume that we have all the energy we need from one Geothermal plant...
If only the real world were like that.....
The kids are aware that there are these things called taxes. They are also aware these taxes help pay for certain things that we all use and need (bridges and roads, for example). As for the rest of it, this was an area where they relied on me. We will go into this in much more depth later on, so for now we said the government will take care of Police, Fire, Hospitals, and Schools. They were a bit confused about the fact that their parents pay for their schooling, but schools are often payed for by governments. We had a brief discussion about private vs. public, but banked that on our wonder wall to come back to later.
We may spend the rest of this unit just investigating the wonder wall!
Again, to keep our life simple, we decided that we would only produce the necessary foods. Well, what are the necessary foods? I had just read them the excellent book Weslandia, in which a boy creates his own civilization in his backyard. He speaks about a staple food crop. They connected this to that book and said that our staple food has to be rice. From there, they insisted on having meat, milk, veggies, and fruits. We will create different farms for all of these on our maps.
A student asked a great question during this; how big does a rice farm has to be to feed a city of one million? That is going to be a great math inquiry.
We need to shop. There are essential items that we need. Clothing was pretty much agreed on by all. As was housing, and furniture. They added food to the list, even though Food had its own list. I think they are differentiating between what is made, and what is bought.
This one took the longest. We had already come across the term leisure time. What do people do in their spare time. As you can imagine, with a group of 11-12 year olds, this discussion got pretty serious. Everybody wanted THEIR favorite thing represented. We had a huge list of potential alternatives. I told them that they needed to narrow it down to three. In small groups they argued culled the lists, then I jigsawed the groups up and they continued to cull and argue. Eventually we were left with about six, so we put it to a vote. Every got two votes, and the three with the most votes won. The lucky winners were Books, Bikes, and Computers (because these can be used to many of other things on the list).
Life in Ablai
We now have an overview of what life will look like.
Next stop, natural resources and manufacturing.