Sunday, September 20, 2009

Econ in Literature - Upper Grades

I don't often recommend literature to integrate economics at the upper grades. I suspect I tend to see the curriculum as too segmented at that stage, and less able to be integrated. Not that the subject matter doesn't lend itself to integration, I just think many upper grade teachers, myself included quite often, tend to think of "our subject areas". Consequently, the idea of interdisciplinary or cross-disciplinary activity doesn't come up frequently enough.

Let me make an exception. While working on another project (integrating economics to values and character education), I came across Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff. (I'm not linking to it because I'm adding to my carousel at left.) The book is for upper grades (7-12) and should be pre-screened. It has some mature themes. And while I don't think there's anything students should be shielded from, parents, administrators, etc. may think otherwise.

The story is about a 14-year old inner city high school student with aspirations to college. She has a supportive mother and is trying to earn good grades and enough money to get to college and out of her neighborhood. She takes a job babysitting two young children. Their mother is a 17-year old working a dead-end job. Unfortunately, things get worse quickly.

I won't go into the plot. Suffice it to say there are a number of opportunities to discuss scarcity, choice and opportunity cost on a very real, very basic level. And Wolff's writing style is engaging. There are 66 chapters in a 200 page book. That should tell you something. It's easy to read and extremely engaging.

And if you're looking for something to engage students on a different level, particularly if you want to bring decision-making and choices to basic issues, this book may be the way to do it. It may be that someone in your English department is already using it. This could be your opportunity to meet some people in that other wing and suggest a “cross-disciplinary” adventure. It would be worth doing.

I hope someone is familiar with the book and I welcome comments.

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