Interview craftspeople, farmers, and entrepreneurs in Otavalo, Ecuador, to develop a case study documenting the stages of production of various goods and create a non-fiction book and museum-in-a-box that enlivens economics and models primary source research.
When I set out to teach the third grade economics standards, I had a definite gap in my knowledge of living in a market economy where bartering, trading, and using natural resources and manual labor in entrepreneurship are the norm. Now that I have experienced this type of economy, meeting craftspeople and learning the value of a dollar in this setting, as well as learning about the relationships among producers and consumers, I have filled that void.
I can create more authentic, meaningful experiences for my students to teach economics, bringing the experience that brought the standards to life for me into the classroom through my writing, photos, videos, and books. The Market Day my students will participate in will be a true representation of the market in Otavalo, as opposed to something somewhat imaginary. Because my understanding of this content has grown so much, I know I'll be better prepared to tackle the subject matter.
I gained the confidence to interact with people whether or not we speak the same language, come from the same place or share the same values and beliefs. I was out of my comfort zone and I tackled many "firsts:" speaking Spanish, interviewing strangers, living with a host family, and leaving the US to learn. Now that I have done this, I know many doors have opened for me to take more deliberate steps to expand my cultural understanding at home as well.
I will increase students' motivation to learn about economics, boost their craftsmanship, and increase their retention of information by facilitating entrepreneurship. The new economics unit will have an authentic audience, problems to solve, multiple perspectives to consider, and products made with natural resources. Kids will be given an in-depth look at the market in Otavalo, which also supports the 90 minutes of Spanish instruction they receive every week.
My team will be co-writing a nonfiction text about Otavalo. We'll plan our expedition from the final product backwards to the kick-off. We'll be sharing the resources we purchased on our trip and back at home, sharing our personal documentation of the trip, and trouble-shooting together along the way.
I look forward to our Celebration of Learning, an hour-long event during which students will share their experiences and learning with parents, teachers, and community members. They will learn songs from Ecuador, create artwork in the style of Ecuadorian artists, create goods or services to sell at their Market Day, and write nonfiction books. All of their hard work and craftsmanship will be on display and they will use a portfolio to help them share the processes they used to achieve it.
In Otavalo, we heard many stories of how the currency there changed to the dollar in the year 2000. This impacted families in many different ways, and even now many Otavalenos who lost their life savings face struggles. We hope to connect with them again, and we are considering how we might raise and donate money to give back to the community that taught us so much.
I used to be nervous to talk to strangers, especially in another language. Now I'm confident in doing so and realize that making mistakes in another person's language goes far in showing that I care. I used to think that a market economy was a thing of the past, but living with a family who relies on that system changed that. LastIy, I have shifted my perspective on "natives" as the Otavalenos faced similar struggles to those of the Native Americans in the United States.