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Thurston Students Learn Trade, Bartering Concepts Through Annual Fair

The event, which takes place each year before Thanksgiving, allows students to trade goods and learn economics based on current curriculum.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is usually a day of travel for many. But for students, it's a day of anticipation before a long holiday weekend. 

And while some students in the Westwood school system will be holding Thanksgiving-themed celebrations, students will engage in the very old art of trading and bartering goods at the school's cafeteria. 

From 10 to 11 a.m. on Wednesday, right before all of Westwood's public schools release early for the holiday weekend, Thurston's 267 sixth graders will flock to the cafeteria for the annual Neolithic Trade Fair. 

"It's a great sendoff to do something that is so enjoyable," said Jo-Ellen Franklin-Briggs, who teaches sixth grade social studies and helped spearhead the fair more than a decade ago.

The fair is held in coordination with the sixth-grade curriculum, which, during the fall each year, focuses on the beginnings of civilization. Franklin-Briggs said she got the idea for the trade fair from renowned social studies instructor and author Tarry Lindquist.  

"She's very adept at taking social studies concepts and putting them into action," she said. "And in order for our kids to experience the economics idea of trade and bartering, she came up with the trade fair. Our curriculum in Westwood is based on ancient studies. We're looking at the development of life within neolithic farming towns."

And following suit with the trade-and-barter theme, the fair will serve as the chance for students to bring in a variety of goods they can trade with one another. 

Students from Lynn McDonald's sixth grade social studies class have been hard at work all week learning the lesson of trading, which correlates with the fair. And many of the students already had in mind Monday what goods they planned to bring.

One student planned on bringing duct-tape bracelets, while another planned on bringing Boston Red Sox baseball cards. Another student said he planned on bringing Frisbees with the Westwood Wolverine logo on them, which McDonald said would be a hot item. 

The students are encouraged to figure out what items are in highest demand, as well as how to go into "business" with each other. 

"Last year I felt like it was controlled chaos," said McDonald. "That's what I really enjoyed watching the most, people were focused on what they were there for."

Robin Bova, who also teaches sixth grade social studies and helped organize the questions surrounding this year's lesson, said the fair allows for students to see other peers they don't see on a day-to-day basis.

"One of the things I think is really cool for the sixth graders is that they get to interact with people they normally don't see on a normal given day," she said. "Part of what trade did for neolithic people was it helped them interact."

The fair began with only about 50 of the sixth grade class, Franklin-Briggs added, but the event has grown to include all of the sixth graders over the years.

Daniel Porter November 23, 2011 at 03:53 PM
Great initiative! I like bartering a lot. I've been even doing it online on Barterquest.com. It's definitely a money-saver and it even helps the planet.

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