How Might We Reduce Scarcity?

This term I am teaching a module on Economic concepts called The Apprentice. Each week is a different challenge based upon a different concept or skill. So far we have investigated resource types, consumer rights and made an advertisement. Today our focus was on the concept of Scarcity and I decided to approach it as a 90 minute Design Thinking challenge.

As usual, we started the class with a What If question – today’s being: What if there were no chickens left in the world? With 5 minutes to write down as many ideas as possible and then sharing a few answers, 10 minutes of our precious 90 minutes a week was gone. We had, however, opened up into a divergent mindset ready to think creatively in our task at hand today (as well bemoan the loss of KFC and pancakes from our lives).

The only form of direct instruction in the lesson happened next as I led a whole class discussion on Scarcity. What does it mean, what are some examples etc. Students then chose a specific scarce resource and worked in groups for 10 minutes to generate a list of all the different things it is used for and what the issues are with it as a resource. After this the group had to come to a consensus as to what the key problem is for that resource.

We then discussed the challenge for today:


Once they were clear on what we were aiming to do they got set up with an A2 sheet of paper and pen or pencil (yes even in a BYOD school there are activities that are just better on paper) and their own space to concentrate in. It was Ideation time! 10 minutes to come up with as many possible solutions as they could think of. This was a time for generation of ideas, not judgement. Some music to help the mood (Nina Simone, Sinnerman – thanks Tom Barrett for this great ideation tune) and we were away.


To help throughout the 10 minutes I added some enabling constraints when I could see they were lagging – ideas such as What about an idea that would cost nothing and an idea that would cost more than $5000? What is the worst possible solution? 2 minutes to go, if stuck go back and create a different version of an idea you have already written down.

At the end of the 10 minutes the number of ideas written down ranged from 5 to 42. Two of those with lower numbers admitted to me they struggled to separate the writing of ideas from judging their ideas and that they discarded ideas due to not being practical. Overall as a class though our 25 students generated 565 ideas in just 10 minutes!

After a minute rest and celebration of all the ideas, students chose their safe bet idea (1 that could definitely work), moonshot idea (the hardest to pull off but would make a massive impact) and their favourite idea (the one that got them quite excited when they wrote it down). They then walked around reading each other’s idea sand putting a tick beside an idea that they really liked.

Students then chose the idea that they would develop further (it didn’t have to be the one with the most ticks but the peer feedback should be taken into account). On the back of their A2 ideation paper the students then had 5 minutes to sketch how their chosen idea would reduce scarcity of their resource.

A 10 minute feedback session then took place where students used Rose, Bud, Thorn to make comments on each other’s sketches. The final part of the lesson was students refining their idea and drawing a 2nd version of their solution which was handed in at the end.

With a teaching objective of helping students to understand scarcity this lesson worked really well. By creating a shared understanding early on in the lesson, the students were then able to use this knowledge and deepen their understanding throughout the process. Their problem finding and solving skills were also developed and I know which students I need to work closer with on helping them separate the generation and judging of ideas. As a bonus, there was also some awesome creativity with solar charged robots, nanotechnology, adopt a bee and cheap water filtration systems being amongst the solutions devised by students.



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