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Teaching more on economic education

A team of middle school students from Columbus, Mississippi are ready to serve as trade ambassadors in our global economy. They have the certificate to prove it. Coached by Columbus Middle School teacher, Sylvia Collins, this team and other teams from Columbus loaded up on a bus at 5 am to make the three hour trip to Clinton, where they represented Canada at the International Economic Summit earlier this month. They took home the title of Summit Champs. Preparing for and participating in the International Economic Summit is just one of many ways the students of Mississippi are becoming economically literate. The Mississippi Council on Economic Education provides professional development for teachers on international economics, who then implement the curriculum in their classrooms. Teachers and their students have the opportunity to compete annually at a statewide Summit held at Mississippi College in Clinton. This competition is in its fourth year and has drawn as many as 650 students to the event.

The winners from the Summit Champs event.

The winners from the Summit Champs event.

How many middle school students do you know that can tell you what GDP means (Gross Domestic Product)? Or can intelligently explain imports, exports and tariffs? Each of the 150 students that participated in the 2013 International Economic Summit have this ability. The International Economic Summit simulates world trade among nations, with as many as sixty student teams competing. The event is structured like a model United Nations, where each student team represents a different country. The students spent weeks getting ready, researching their assigned country’s economy, political structure, imports and exports, natural resources, infrastructure needs, and other strengths and weaknesses. These “economic advisers” came to the event with specific strategies in mind, prepared to negotiate and trade their way toward improving the standard of living within “their country.”

The MS Council on Economic Education has offered this event annually since 2010. This year it was sponsored by the Mississippi Geographic Alliance, Entergy of MS, State Farm Insurance and The College Knowledge Project, a higher education initiative of the MS Institutions of Higher Learning funded by the US Department of Education’s College Access Challenge Grant program. Support was given by Mississippi College, BancorpSouth and Security Ballew, Inc.

A learning event for middle and high school students, student teams representing the nations of today’s complex world, compete for scarce resources, form strategic country alliances, debate global issues, invest in long term development projects, interact with global economic institutions, and seek to stabilize and advance the global economy. The more immediate benefits of the program include meeting state educational standards in economics, building bridges between schools and universities, and motivating students to expand their educational goals and aspirations, specifically college completion. Participation in this event makes the rest of the world real to students in Mississippi who are likely to have not traveled to other states much less other countries.

Businesses wanting to be involved in this program during 2014 are encouraged to contact the MS Council on Economic Education. The 2014 International Economic Summit is tentatively planned for December 2, 2014. Support from organizations interested in the global economy will allow the MS Council on Economic Education to provide professional development for a new cohort of teachers and to provide the Summit to students at no cost to them or their school. Together we can create a generation of adults with knowledge on how to compete in the global economy.

» Selena Swartzfager is president of the Mississippi Council for Economic Education. She can be reached at swartsc@millsaps.edu.


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