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Spent: Social Justice Simulation

What it is: I learned about Spent from my friend @ianchia last week on Twitter. Spent is a collaboration between McKinney and Urban Ministries of Durham to show students how the decisions they make affect their lives.  The Urban Ministries of Durham serves over 6,000 people every year.  Students have the opportunity to accept the Spent simulation and challenge to see if they can make it through a month of living expenses.  They have just lost their job, their savings are gone, they have lost their house, and they are down to their last thousand dollars.  Students must find a job, make decisions about housing, food, emergencies, and more as they try to survive one month on minimum wage.

How to integrate Spent into the classroom: Spent is a social justice game simulation that helps students understand the tough circumstances that so many face that have caused them to be homeless and in need of outside assistance.  The game uses scenarios that are true to life and shows students how each decision that they make has consequences.  Spent would be a great game for students to play in an economics or social studies class.  Students can play the game individually and come together at the end of the game to discuss how the decisions they made affected their ultimate outcome.  Which students made it to the end of the month and which failed?  What decision(s) led to that outcome?  If you don’t have the ability for students to play the game individually, play as a class using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  Make decisions together as a class weighing the pros and cons of each decision as you go.

Extend this online game by moving to a place of action.  What can your students do to help those in need?  Can they hold a school fundraiser to donate to the Urban Ministries of Durham? Can they create compelling call to action videos and post them to YouTube?  Let your students be creative and come up with their own solutions for making an impact.

Tips: There are some great ethical scenarios in the simulation that should spark some interesting discussion and debate among students.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Spent in your classroom!

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11 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this website. I teach consumer economics and this would help to simulate a real world experience for my students. A lot of my students feel that most other families are like theirs. Where in fact most families are struggling to to meet the basic needs in this economy.

  2. Also, I wanted to contribute to the fact that students are truly invested in what they are learning when they are using technology. This website not only simulates a real life scenario but does it through the use of the technology to help make it engaging. Students like working on computers and iPads every opportunity they have. My school is hoping to one day go to a one to one ratio.

  3. I am using this game scenario with my 7th & 8th grade gifted classes. They will first play the game and then write a reflection post for their blogs adding a link to Spent so others can play. I have 4 questions to help with their post.

  4. My term not the games. Was using it in the sense of helping students understand and value human dignity re: St. Thomas Aquinas- the game is designed to help students recognize and reflect on the circumstances that can lead to needing outside help and build empathy.

  5. Thank you for the comment Alisa…I thought about that too, for may students this simulation will hit close to home.

  6. I’ve just finished playing SPENT and I was able to survive through the month even though I accumulated some pending bills. It’s scary and devastating to know that people all over the world deal with these situations every day. I like that the game encourages you to weigh your options wisely and really think of what’s essential. It’s a great resource not just for students for but everyone. Thanks for this amazing share!

  7. Rachelle, thank you for the comment. I was able to survive too but it is such a wakeup call for all of us about what we value and the decisions we make.

  8. I don’t think it is too mature for 5th grade Jacqui, it may require more discussion as a class during the simulation.

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