The Reality Store

The Reality Store is intended to give Elliot County 7th and 8th grade students a sense of the real world.  They each are transported forward in time until they are 25 years old.  Each student may then have a spouse and a random draw gives them from 0 to 5 children.  Each is assigned an occupation and monthly salary based on their current grade point average.  Now the fun begins.  The students come into the gym where tables have been set up representing some of the stops that they will need to make this month.  The first stop is the Bank where they cash their paycheck, make a savings deposit if they wish, and start to deal with this month's expenses.  Employees of the local bank branch staff the table and can answer the student's financial questions.  They then proceed to the Tax Table where they pay the taxes due on their income.

The students then visit a series of required tables to provide for the month's Housing, Groceries, Clothing, Transportation, Medical Expenses, Child Care, Insurance, and Utilities.  Each of the choices, and expenses had to be consistent with their income and family.  No fancy two seat sport cars for store clerks making minimum wage with five kids to support.  The Medical table had a wheel of fortune to find out if they had a routine checkup or something seriously wrong with high expenses.  At Groceries they could chose from several monthly menus.  Here most of the students ended up picking the basic low cost selection while admitting that they would prefer better.  Some of them discovered that they would need to visit the Supplemental Income table for second or even third jobs to make ends meet.

Some of the other tables included: Contributions, Recreation, Health and Beauty, Pets, and Adult Education.  Most of the students found that they had to economize if they were to make it through the month with anything left over.  The Adult Education table was new this year.  Here they would learn the value of furthering their education to qualify for a better job and higher pay.  They may find that they would be charged for their continuing education or it may be free for those getting a GED or going to an employer sponsored training course.  The "price" of this stop included my lecture on the free time they would have to give up to get a better job and how it would have been better to stay in school in the first place.  Each of the tables had seniors helping out.  One of the girls at my table had a full scholarship at the University of Kentucky and encouraged some of the 7th and 8th graders to go on to college.

Like in the game Monopoly, at the Chance table they would draw to find out if they got an inheritance, broke their leg, or had some other good luck or misfortune.  If they were very unlucky and drew a major accident they would be assigned to a wheelchair, crutches or be blindfolded for the remainder of their stay in Reality.  The SOS table was for students who realized that they couldn't make ends meet.  Here they would be given suggestions on to how to reduce their expenses or increase their income.  Welfare was not an option.

The experience seemed to let the students see the value of improving their grades now so that they can go further in their education and be qualified for a better, higher paying job.
It was clear that the experience had an effect when you listened to them on the bus on their way home that night.  One was heard to say with a tone of desperation in his voice "I need more money.  How can I get more money?"  He knew that he wasn't going to make it if he didn't.

If you have participated in a Reality Store or have other comments I would like to hear them.

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