“It’s a free trade simulation,” explained Cherie Witt, teacher of the Business Essentials class. “We simulate what it’s like to own property, to value that property, then what it would be like to try to get something more for that property, and so we open up the trade routes in the classroom and they are able to try to get something more that they like.”
Each of the 12 students received a brown paper bag with two $1 items in it – but nobody was allowed to see inside – yet. The students were then divided up into tables of three and four.
Finally, Mrs. Witt allowed students to peek inside their bag but they could not show or tell anyone else what they had.
“You now have ownership of that item,” Mrs. Witt told the students.
Not knowing what anyone else had, students rated how satisfied they were with the items they had.
“They look inside their bag, then they value it themselves – do they like it or are they just kind of like ‘what the heck? This isn’t really what I wanted’”, said Mrs. Witt. “They place a value on that.”
Average score for Ownership of Property by the students, on a scale of 1 to 10: 6.86.
“Then we open up to what’s called Restricted Trade,” said Mrs. Witt. “You’re restricted to just your table and then they’re able to see what everybody at their table has and then try to convince them to get other things. Each person will have two so they may end trading both items to get one item.”
Beforehand, Mrs. Witt had said “hopefully their satisfaction level goes up”. Instead, once students got to see what their neighbors had, if they were unable to make a trade they were less satisfied with what they already had.
Average score after Restricted Trade: 6.5.
But their “consumer satisfaction” radically changes once Mrs. Witt opened up trading throughout the entire classroom – Free Trade. They repeated the process: let students trade, then rate how satisfied they were when they finished.
Average Score after Free Trade: 7.28.
“You got more of what you wanted,” Mrs. Witt told the class. “Your satisfaction level went up. You were happier with the items that you had. Once you saw other peoples items maybe you realized you liked your items just a little bit more than everybody else’s.”
“It’s just a better understanding of how the economy works and how trade works between our nation and other nations,” Mrs. Witt said. “When they shop online, where are they shopping from? Are they buying from in the U.S. or are they buying overseas? Is that a bad thing or is that a good thing, like are they getting a better price? It’s forming their own opinions about it. It’s them learning as they go – ‘hey, I’m a little more satisfied when I have more options to choose from.’”