Grade 6 students at Hutton Elementary School learned about the difficulties of child poverty when they went on a budget for a day.
As the province with the highest rate of child poverty in the country, British Columbia has more than 90,000 children living in poverty, including those in Grand Forks.
“Province-wide, all of the teachers who are social justice representatives, we’re thinking a lot about child poverty because it has such a huge impact on our kids’ learning,” said teacher Melissa Shaw. “It dove-tailed nicely with the social studies unit that my kids are working on and that’s global citizenship.”
Shaw noted the students looked at how life would be without a job, shelter or enough food to eat. As a part of the class project, Shaw tried to plan out a menu for a week but had difficulty reducing the bill to under $40 so she brought a copy to class.
“I brought a stack of flyers and let them attack it to see what I could live without and what I couldn’t let go of,” she explained. “The kids did try it for a day and some did it for longer than a day.”
A reality students in the classroom faced was unsuspecting costs, including how to determine the costs of meat.
“My class is full of meat eaters and they said they could afford this chicken, ‘it’s only (a small amount),’” Shaw recalled. “But I pointed out that is only for a kilogram and you might not be able to buy a package smaller than three or four kilograms. It was a good math lesson but they also realized that meat and fruits and vegetables were probably not going to be part of the plan.”
Parent Advisory Committee member Sandra Cheverie and her son Adam also participated in the challenge.
“It’s something that I’ve talked about with my kids and hearing my son Adam learn from his teacher has been a really interesting outcome,” Cheverie said. “He had an idea of what things cost, about what was expensive and what wasn’t, which was something he wasn’t interested in before.”
Cheverie noted the project brings an awareness to students about the problem, as well as educational skills such as math.
“We did a lot of research beforehand with the flyers so we knew we wouldn’t be able to be healthy and live on that,” Shaw said. “You could probably get enough calories, which is why I think poverty and
obesity are related, but you couldn’t have a healthy diet.”