• Scarcity Auction


    Goal: For the students to understand how scarcity influences the economic behavior of individuals.


    Supplies needed:

                1 bag of Hershey’s miniatures

                Podium or table

                Lots of fake money




    Distribute to the students random amounts of money with at least one student with a sizable amount of money and one with very little.


    Place four of the Minis (one of each flavor) on a display table so all students can see them.  Make sure that the rest of the bag is well hidden.  Beginning with the least popular flavor (usually special dark then Mr. Goodbar then regular Hershey’s Milk Chocolate, and finally Krackel) explain to the students that they are going to get a chance to bid for one of the last four candy bars in existence and give a detailed description of each bar’s attributes.


    The students then compete with each other to outbid each other for those four candy bars.  Normally the students with the most amount of money will easily outbid their “poorer” competitors and spend the vast majority of their money on those four bars. 


    Once the four bars have been auctioned off announce to the class that a discovery has been made and take the remaining bag of miniatures (which should have been out of sight from the beginning) and pour the contents out on the table.


    Resume the auction by selling single bars in the same order.  The students should be bidding very little money.  Once the bidding is low for a round or two begin to bundle larger amounts of bars together to increase “sales” until the candy bars are completely sold.


    Post activity:  Engage the students in a discussion of how the scarcity of candy bars influences economic behavior.  Focus on buyer behavior at the beginning when only four bars existed and how that changed as the number of bars increased until at the end when the seller was selling as much as they could for whatever price they could get due to the larger amount available.


    Other tie ins: Opportunity cost, free market, factors of production, incentives, supply and demand, prices, market and shortages/surplus
    Margins Activity:
    Goal: For the students to understand why economic activity is done on the margins instead of being done all at once.
         1 large white towel
         Shredded paper
         Crumpled paper
         Random small childrens toys (about the size of the little green army men)
         Pepper, dirt
         Anything that could be trash on a beach like bandaids (unused but out of package please)
         Small plastic baggies
    Structure of the room:  A large space in the center of the room should be cleared.  In that space the towel with all of the trash and dirt should be placed and covered up.
         Begin the activity with putting the following on the board: Public safety (fire, police), ambulance/health services, roads, water, sanitation, recreation.  The students are given a budget of $200,000 to split between all of the services.  A discussion of what is included in the services that benefit the whole community.  The students should then decide on the budget for the year for those services.
         After the budget is set inform the students that a message was just recieved from the Federal EPA stating that if the public beach is not cleaned up then the city will be fined $2,000,000
         The cost to clean up the beach will be $20,000  The students then must decide what budgets must get sacrifices, all the while being encouraged to discuss what kind of services might be lost.
          Once the new budget is decided on uncover the towel in the middle as the "beach."  Then a student gets "hired" for a small percentage of the budget set aside to clean the beach.  They are given a baggie and 30-45 sec to clean the beach as best as they can.  They turn in their "trash bag" and are paid.  Repeat the process with a different student until the beach is cleaned (to where they are trying to pick up dirt and pepper only and the towel is relatively clean). 
    Post Activity:
         Have a discussion with the class as to why the process went like it did.  What kind of problems happened when the city ran into a problem to be solved?  Why didn"t the city just hire the (insert # of students who cleaned)?  Why do we operate on the margin when engaging in economic activity (go step by step nibbling away the problem from the outside instead of just jumping in)? 
    Other tie ins: Government spending, circular flow of economic activity, micro/macro economic goals, Civics HSCEs : 3.3, 1.1
Last Modified on February 14, 2018