Politics & Philosophy / Capitalism vs. Socialism

I teach this as part of a “Shark Tank” learning cycle. It is really good at bringing in politics and philosophy into the classroom.

Note, the videos contain some “classic art” pieces in the background, two of which contain partially clothed people. I say, “pretend you are in a museum.”

Watch the History of Capitalism and make a t-chart of the pros and cons of it:

    • Efficient as there is a much higher level of specialization, so there can be a much higher level of production
    • Higher specialization means people have a narrow, alienating focus on life
    • People at the bottom are exploited
    • good business is good for business
    • Value based on monetary worth and not necessarily on the things that make us happy.

Watch a video on Marxism which does a good job and looking at the ills of capitalism and shows the ideals and shortcomings/impracticality of socialism :

Problems identified with capitalism include

  • modern work is alienating
  • modern work is insecure
  • big gap between rich and poor
  • capitalism is unstable (lots of peaks and crashes)
  • capitalism is bad for capitalists (wealth doesn’t equal happiness or fulfilling lives)
  • Ends with the quote, “Philosophers, until now, have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point is to change it.”

How can kids change it? Learn about politics and voting. 

List the political parties in North American and have students try to plot them from left to right.

  • Left = high taxes and high services
  • Right = low taxes and low services

Talk about the differences between Canada and the USA. What are the biggest differences? E.g., health care (impact of no health insurance (heart attack or premature babies = huge bills) , cost of education and the impact of higher tuition costs, the distribution of wealth, and opportunity.

The American Dream? The Canadian Dream? What should our dream be?

Tell students to ask their parents who they vote for and why.




What are the potential pros and cons of the minimum wage increase?


Intro to Entrepreneurism

This is a scaled down version of a “Shark Tank” learning cycle I do.  It gives you the outline without getting into the specifics. Having done this several times with students, there are a lot of different ways it could go, depending on your timelines. I will often drift into politics, capitalism vs. socialism – which leads into conversations about current events (increase in minimum wage, housing boom, wants vs. needs).

Intro Project

Key Terms

  • Discuss the difference between “Goods” & “Services”
  • Discuss “Supply & Demand”
  • revenue (gross) vs profit (net),


  • With the goal of selling something in the student’s home school, think of a good or service that they could sell for an upcoming event (e.g, Christmas, valentine’s day, graduation).
  • List as many ideas as you can. Split them into goods and services
    • Some samples of what my students have come up with E.g., hot chocolate, open gym, candy canes, valentine’s, school merchandise, movie in library, Stationary Supply in each homeroom available for purchase from teacher. Proceeds go to school.

Warm up activity:

Do this Google Doodle activity. I usually just do the phone as a warm-up activity. What are the problems with current phones (breakable, battery charging, privacy, expensive, disposable, easy to lose) and then design a new phone that fixes the current issues.

google doodle

Next, as a group, brainstorm the problems with grocery shopping. Then show them the video about Amazon Go and how they solved the problem of the long check-out lines. See if they come up with any more ideas to revolutionize shopping.

Finally, watch the video How to be an Entrepreneur by the School of Life and/or “How to Start a Business“.


When you start a business, you need to look at the market in which you are entering. Your task for this element is to analyze your industry (school demographics).

  • Can use SCAMPERto discuss what has been done before, whats worked or hasn’t worked and then tweak to fit the desired event.
  • Supply & Demand: This depends on many factors
    • Demand considerations: E.g., Age, Sex, Local. others?
      • Local (Time and space):  TIME: E.g,. In winter, what types of events would be in higher demand (e.g., indoor events, hot chocolate).  SPACE/Location: what is in scarcer supply in school? Junk food? Computers? Free time?  
      • Sex/Gender: Raffle tickets for a video game might be in higher demand for boys.
      • Age: E.g., Fidget toys might be more popular with kids than teachers.
      • Other?

Project Profitability

How much will each individual item cost? What will you sell it for? How many will you sell? What is your projected revenue? Profit? Costs? 


item cost price profit per item sales Profit Overhead Costs Revenue
Bath bomb $2.75 $5.00 $2.25 200 $450.00 $550.00 $1,000.00
candy canes $0.10 $0.25 $0.15 1000 $150.00 $100.00 $250.00
hot chocolate $0.25 $1.00 $0.75 500 $375.00
pencil $1.00 $2.00 $1.00 25 $25.00 $68.75 $50.00
eraser $1.00 $1.50 $0.50 100 $50.00 $275.00 $150.00

What might your Shark ask?

If the Principal is your “Shark” invite them in to discuss all of their considerations: safety, chaos, mess, teacher time, hall congestion, health, permission forms, etc…The principal will likely ask where the money will be going to (field trips, technology, etc..)

Create a Business Plan  

Now that you know what you’re selling, a successful business needs a plan to follow. Develop a business plan that outlines what your business will do, your staffing needs (labor), your sales and marketing approach and how much start-up financing you will need (how much $$ to start everything). Once you have your business plan, you can follow it to create your successful business and use your business plan to interest investors in your company (aka the “Sharks”)

Questions to answer

  1. Company name
  2. Product name
  3. Product: Are you providing goods or a services?
  4. Who is your target audience (don’t say everybody!)
  5. What words would you associate with your brand?
  6. What would you pay for your product?
  7. Where/how would you sell your product?
  8. What would be some of your expenses as a business (what do you need to buy before you can sell? Would you need a loan from the school?)
  9. Who would you need to hire (set up crew, clean up crew, money counters, teacher supervisor)?

In this case, keep your Principal in mind. What would they consider most important (safety, staffing, lack of chaos, not disrupting the school day, etc…)


How will you get people to know your business exists, how will you market your product/service and advertise it to your target audience?  This could be part of your business plan but if it is not you MUST include some marketing and advertising strategies in this project.

  • Signs, announcements, school Twitter or Facebook pages, school website?
  • How will you make your product seem attractive? Research successful sales techniques and try to implement them (catch phrase, make it seem cool, limited time only, bargain, etc…)

Your Business Proposal  (the Pitch)  

You and your group will be creating a business proposal.  In this proposal you will include all of the elements listed above.  Research what makes a successful business proposal (body language, key phrases, being prepared, enthusiasm, etc…). Be creative & good luck!

Co-create rubric with class

Here’s one idea to get you started: https://www.gallup.unm.edu/pdf/shark-tank.pdf

shark tank rubric

Resources (some places to start)

Healthy Kids Quest Photo Contest

canada-agriculture-contestDear Educators,

The Canada Agriculture and Food Museum is encouraging teachers to take on the Healthy Kids Quest for a chance to win up to $3,000 CAD to purchase classroom supplies or fund programs that promote healthy living.

The Healthy Kids Quest program includes fun lesson plans developed for grades one to three to encourage and educate students on making healthy lifestyle choices. Made up of six engaging themes, the material meets cross-curricular requirements within all of Canada’s provinces and territories and can be downloaded from the Museum website for free.

Between January 15 – February 28, 2018, teachers can take on one of the Healthy Kids Quest themes or activities and share a fun and creative photo of their class participating on the Healthy Kids Quest website for a chance to win cash prizes! The first 20 submissions will receive a $100 CAD gift card for their classroom and all submissions will be entered into a draw for the Grand Prize of $3,000 CAD.

For more information on this contest and to download this educational and fun resource package, please visit healthykidsquest.ca or contact Nadine Dagenais-Dessaint (Education & Interpretation Officer, Canada Agriculture and Food Museum) at ndagenais-dessaint@IngeniumCanada.org.

Please feel free to share this information with your colleagues and teaching networks.

Thank you for your participation,

Kerry-Leigh Burchill
Director General, Canada Agriculture and Food Museum

January’s TRY THIS!

1. Create a new sport for the Olympics

Use SCAMPER to convert an existing Olympic sport into a new one.It might be helpful to start by brainstorming all of the winter Olympic sports you can think of. Then go through the steps of SCAMPER to see what you can come up with.

2. Olympic Questions / Ideas

  • Name ten things that cannot be timed with a stopwatch.
  • How many ways can you make snow?
  • Predict what the Olympic Games will be like in 50 years.
  • List new and unusual uses for an Olympic medal.
  • The answer is athlete. What is the question? ( Have students come up with some of their own similar answers / questions. )
  • Outcome / Reason: The coach ran from the arena before the hockey game was over. What was the reason?
  • What if skates, skis, and snowboards did not exist? (Have students come up with their own “What if” questions.)

3. Improve School

While school is pretty awesome already, there’s always room for improvement. How might you make school or your classroom better? Try creating a T-chart for the parts you like and and the areas you’d like to improve upon. Using SCAMPER, how might you improve upon school? In the end, justify your changes. Why is your version better than the original?

4. Eighth Day of the Week

Have you ever heard someone say, “There are not enough days in the week?” If so, someone is probably commenting on the fact that there is not enough time to do what they want to do, or need to do.

Encourage students to use their imaginations to solve this problem. Pretending there are indeed eight days in the week. This new day would come after Sunday and before Monday.

5. Olympic Values Education Programme

The Olympic Values Education Programme (OVEP) is a series of free and accessible teaching resources that have been created by the IOC. Click here.


Created with Melissa Reist



Literally, the word SCAMPER means “to run playfully about as a child.” But Scamper is also a creative brainstorming technique to help push thinking. It’s a tool that helps students generate ideas, forcing them to look from different perspectives. Use it in your design challenges to help with ideation.

Follow the acronym for an idea-spurring checklist.

CONVERGENT TOOLS: Dot Voting/Dots & Super Dots & The Matrix

DOT VOTING/Dots & Super Dots

This is a useful tool when you have a large group of people, the whole class perhaps. Review all the ideas generated, possibly on the whiteboard or numerous pieces of chart paper.

  • Give each student a number of dot stickers. Everyone should have the same number of dots.
  • Have everyone place a dot beside a great idea.
  • Look for clusters with the most dots or “Hits.” The clusters with the most “Hits” are the options that should be worked on first.
  • Try narrowing the criteria even for the dot voting. For example, which idea would cost the least, be the easiest to build or implement, etc.
  • Another option is to give out dots but also one SUPER DOT, so students can converge on what they feel is the very best idea of all. Powerful critical thinking!


A matrix creates a systematic way to evaluate many solutions against selected
criteria. Use a simple rating system to show how well each idea satisfies each criterion
( scale of 1 – 3, or what about emojis!!) Once the matrix is completed and each idea
rated, you get a sense of how the ideas stack up against each other.


Adapted by Melissa Reist

December What Ifs

  1. What if you were asked by a conservation committee to think of 20 new uses for a new pinecone.  Could you do it?  Brainstorm by yourself or with a group at least 20 ideas!
  2. What if you were hired by the Holiday Decoration Company to create a table centrepiece.  You were only allowed to use twigs and Styrofoam cups.  Make or illustrate and describe your creation.
  3. You were on the school holiday dance committee.  You were asked to create a new dance that all the students would be performing at the dance.  Describe and perform your new never before danced dance!  Don’t forget to name it and be ready to teach your class!
  4. You have been thinking about many different celebrations and holidays that you celebrate with your family!  What is valued in all of those celebrations!  Make a list, and then create your own celebration, name and describe it!
  5. You were hired by the Starry, Starry Night Astronomy Foundation to search for a new constellation.  You found one.  Draw the new constellation, name it, share where it is located in terms of other constellations and write a myth or story about why it is in the night sky.  
  6. You were celebrating winter by taking selfies in many different winter scenes!  You decided to upload them to your computer to find that you weren’t in any of the pictures!  Write a story, entitled, “There is Something Strange Happening this Winter!”
  7. You were chosen by your class to make a gift for you teacher or school principal.  What would you choose?  Describe or make it and write a letter to go with it that would explain why you chose this gift.
  8. Winter celebrations are very important to many cultures. Make a holiday chart with as many winter celebrations as the class can think of, including how it is celebrated, the importance of the traditions, games, recipes, etc.  Have the students write in their journals or have a discussion about why respect for each other’s beliefs is important.

Written by D. Wunder