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WEST GOSHEN — For children — and even many adults — it can be hard to decide between what’s good for you and what just tastes good while walking through the aisles of a grocery store.
But for the third graders at Glen Acres Elementary School, they learned the importance of nutrition and how to budget their money by spending their morning at the ShopRite off Route 3 in West Chester Wednesday.
“We’re trying to make it fun and authentic, but really talk about math, science and language skills,” said Howard Herbert, the inventor of the Young Consumer program. “As a former curriculum person, the intention is to involve parents and business in talking about things kids need to know for those tests. If you can activate the community to work together on those tests that they’re taking, we think we have a better chance of educating the kids.”
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The program was broken into two parts where the students traveled in groups to different tables spaced throughout the store to play some problem-solving games and then shopped around the store on their predetermined budget.
The Glen Acres third graders have spent the past month preparing for the day with a couple appearances from Herbert along the way.
“He comes to our school twice and teaches them activities that go along with the activity stations that they’re doing,” said Terri Haines, one of the third grade teachers at Glen Acres. “As far as budgeting for a family of four, we do that in class. Yesterday they had a menu and had to figure out their menu and they had to look at the circular and had to talk about prices. They’re only allowed to spend $100 and getting as close to $100 as possible is the goal. They learn something from this. It’s an application of real-world skills.”
Though it may seem the third graders are too young for such an activity, many would be astonished to know economics is part of their curriculum.
“This is problem solving in all areas,” Haines said. “It’s budgeting, it’s using money, it’s weighing things — it’s all of the skills we want kids to develop that are life skills. It’s not just one thing. That makes it math, it makes it science, it makes it economics. They get more out of this than reading a text book. They’ve had a lot of background in economics because we’ve been teaching it.”
The students were all placed in groups of three with the goal to feed a family of four over four days as nutritiously as possible without going over budget.
“We’ve been thinking about what we want to buy and how much money it will be,” said Nathan Bilyk, 9.
The groups already planned out their shopping list, but it’s completely different once they got into the store and saw all the choices.
“It’s very interesting,” Haines said. “I let them work with the people they want to work with. Some of them will end up working really well together and then there will be groups that have little tifts during their day, but they’ll all have fun.”
For Bilyk’s group, they had no issues together.
“We were prepared,” said Cody Heyduk, 8. “We knew which ones we wanted. The cheapest one that we saw, we got.”
Even when there was still a cheaper product, the group handled it well together.
“If one of us saw a cheaper one, we’d show them and compare the difference,” Bilyk said.
While they picked out the items, the students had to keep track of what they had in their carts and round up prices to get an idea of where they stood.
To help them along the way, each group also had one chaperone with them.
“The chaperones are wonderful,” Haines said. “Having a parent or student teacher with each group makes all the difference. Without that interaction, it would be tough.”
Once they believed they were finished and under-budget, each group went to checkout.
“They’ll checkout just like other customers,” Herbert said. “The difference is dietitians will interview them about their choices.”
Bilyk’s group felt pretty confident of their choices.
“It’s pretty healthy,” said Julien Kallignois, 9. “Sort of.”
At least they were more confident that they stayed within their budget.
“We feel like it will be $90-something,” Heyduk said.
Lucky for them, they totaled $84.18.