Lakota East sophomore Taylor Tuazon, a recent class exercise was “one
of the most stressful things (she’s) ever done, but also one of the most
An hour-long poverty simulation, facilitated by
the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, thrusted Taylor and about 65 of her
AP U.S. History classmates into different familial roles – the single
head-of-household parent, the primary caregiver grandparent, the
uncle suffering from a severe illness, or the child with significant
financial responsibilities, for example. In family units of three or
four, students had but one task: survive.
Every 15 minutes
represented a week. Families were challenged to do pretty ordinary
things like go to work, go to school, find childcare, pay their
mortgage, buy groceries, pay their utilities or go to the doctor. The
challenging part: It all had to be done with very limited resources
Limited transportation options, little to no
income, restricted social services, childcare dilemmas, eviction
notices and plain bad luck were just some of the factors that forced
students to make some very difficult decisions. Some resorted to
crime, while others kept their child home from school to provide
childcare so they could go to work. Long lines formed quickly at the
bank and social service agencies set up around the room, while the
healthcare facility received no patrons the entire time.
teacher Jennifer Reid explained that the simulation directly links
with many of the eras they study closely throughout the year,
including the government’s response to different social and economic
outcomes. It’s an opportunity for students to experience firsthand how
the “system” operates in a real-life scenario.
But it’s also much more than identifying the pitfalls and brainstorming solutions.
work really hard in this class to develop empathy in my students,”
Reid said. “It’s about helping them understand what some people are up
against and how difficult and sometimes uncontrollable circumstances
make it really difficult to climb out of poverty.”
In the end, the exercise did just that for many of the students who spoke up during the group debrief.
me, it broke a lot of stereotypes about why poor people do the things
they do. There’s nothing easy about being in that position,” said
sophomore Logan Lockhart.
“I realized how important it is for
every person in the community to help their neighbors when times get
tough,” said sophomore Jamie Peterson.
“Society has a certain
perception of why people fall into poverty, but the reality is that
unexpected things can come out of nowhere and it can happen to
anyone,” said East sophomore John Ferguson. “There’s a certain stigma
and I think we’re almost desensitized to it.”
poverty simulation, facilitated by the Ohio Association of Foodbanks,
had a big impact on Lakota East AP U.S. History students.