Pine River students learn economics through Trade Fair

LEROY — History and economics come together each year for fifth-grade students at Pine River Area Schools with an annual Trade Fair.

The Trade Fair is an activity offered by teacher Paul Chilson which integrates early colonial hands-on economics with the terminology of economics today. The students are provided with a hands-on experience of bartering, trading and performing service work for goods and supplies, just as the colonial settlers did in the past.

"It's one of those highlights of fifth grade," said Chilson about the Trade Fair. "When the students know how it works, they get really excited to start. I just thought it was one of those perfect things to fit in once we had colonialism in our curriculum."

Because economics is now part of the state's M-STEP test for fifth-graders, Chilson also believes the Trade Fair can help prepare students for that part of the exam while including a history lesson.

Weeks before the event, Chilson encourages students to begin creating items they can trade with their fellow classmates, including jewelry, wood projects, baked goods, knit items and more. Once the Trade Fair begins, students have about 40 minutes to make deals to acquire items they desire made by their classmates. Through this interaction, they also learn economical words and phrases such as "capital," "resources," "value," and "supply and demand."

"It's a really hands-on way for the kids to understand those terms," Chilson said. "They key part is the economics section and how they learn to use the vocabulary freely, and it helps them realize the value of money and quality for the price."

After bartering and trading is complete, students talk about what they received for what they paid and discuss whether it was a smart deal they would make again in the future.

Chilson continues to offer the Trade Fair each year due to its popularity and ability to help students understand a small, but important, aspect of economics.

"I still hear kids in high school who talk about their Trade Fair and how fun it was," he said. "They always want to do it again. It's fun, it's a blast and the kids look forward to it."