PRIMARY RESOURCES: ACTIVITY 3 - QUESTIONS OF CONSUMERISM AND CONSUMPTION
Time: One/two lessons
- Gather the materials:
Packet(s) of small sweets (e.g. Jelly beans). Where children are not allowed or
able to eat sweets, use coloured beads or other small attractive items but start
off with all the beads in one box.
Squared paper (large squares)
- Arrange the desks:
One large group of desks (Asia)
Three medium groups (Africa, South America, Europe)
Two small groups (North America, Australia).
When the children come into class, seat them at the tables in numbers that reflect
the world population distribution:
So, in a class of 30, 16 children might sit at the Asian table, 5 at the African,
5 at the European, 2 at the South American and 1 each at the North American and
- On the squared paper, the children can colour in and label six different blocks
(57 squares for Asia...down to 1 for Australia).
it's time to distribute the sweets, but explain to the children that distribution
is going to be done according to each region's energy consumption. Using exactly
100 sweets makes things a lot easier.
The children could block out these figures on the back (or beside - using a different
colour) of the charts they have already drawn
- Give them a moment to consider the implications. How many sweets does each
table - and therefore each child - have?
- Gather the children
together for a plenary.
- Ask the children how many sweets each was given.
- How do they feel about it? Fair or unfair?
- What is the solution to the discontent of those who got virtually nothing?
Should we make enough so that every child in the class gets the same as the North
Americans / Europeans?
- But in the real world, is that going to be possible? Aren't the resources
of the earth - like the contents of a single box of sweets - finite? Nearly everyone
in Britain owns a car - could the world possibly sustain a car for everyone? No?
- In which case, the only solution is to distribute things equitably and, in
the real world, that will mean that some people - British people for example,
would have to consume less. Would the children really be prepared to have less
food? Fewer toys? Holidays in Britain rather than abroad?
THE WORLD'S RELIGIONS SAY...
All the world's religions challenge the pursuit of riches as the focus of humankind's
existence. In fact, all religions emphasise that such an attitude is the opposite
of what God wants.
Read the New Testament story of the rich man who asks Jesus what he must do to
inherit eternal life (Luke 18:18-30). The rich man balks at the command to 'sell
everything you have and give it to the poor.' Jesus later famously emphasised
this with the saying that 'it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a
needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God' (Luke:18.25).
On the other hand, it is important to emphasise to children that things can be
changed. A good story to use might be the familiar story from the Jewish scriptures
Most children's illustrated versions of the story of Jonah focus on the miraculous
adventures of Jonah inside the whale's belly (a consumer consumed - a good illustration
of a food chain!) - but what is really interesting about the story is the character
of Jonah. At first he's a reluctant prophet of doom, then when the people repent
and doom is postponed, he gets cross with God.
But the text is clear about God's reaction to the people: 'The Ninevites believed
in God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least,
put on sackcloth... when God saw what they did and how they turned from their
evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had
threatened.' (Jonah 3:5 & 10).
Retell the story with the emphasis on this communal deliverance, rather than that
of Jonah as an individual.
The Hug-a-tree movement and Traidcraft (mentioned in the 'More about Inequality'
activity) are positive examples of human beings acting to stop the destruction
of God's earth. It is important that the children are not left feeling helpless
and hopeless. Ask them what positive actions they think they could offer in the
battle to save the planet.
© REEP, Lazenby Education