All the Marbles: ELP lesson reveals problems of privelege

By Katie Mauss

Everyone has heard of the term “privilege” thrown around in politics and economics. The truth that is now encroaching on the youth of America is that socioeconomic privilege exists — and it is a problem in society.

Recently, Peet and Holmes ELP students faced this truth head on in a “Star Power” simulation that was designed to change their views forever.

First, students were asked to pick five marbles out of a paper bag. These marbles were given various point values, gold marbles being the best. Then, they were told that they could trade beads with others to try and get more points for themselves.

After a few minutes, they were to count up their points and sit in the three different groups (red squares, blue circles and green triangles) that would decide their role in the rest of the game. The red squares each had 30+ points after the third round, the blue circles had 20+ and the green triangles had 0-19 points.

Then, they drew another random five marbles, again trading with anyone in the room. Like before, they were asked to add up their total points and sit with their designated group. Soon, students realized that they couldn’t escape their group, except in certain extreme examples.

After everyone calmed down, the red squares were asked to come up with two additional rules with the help of a single delegate from the other two groups.

After these rules were announced, many people began to complain about the “corruption of the game,” and some even began to scream revolution against the red squares.

Karen Newcomb, the ELP teacher at Holmes, said, “A few [students] were so caught up in the simulation that they had a hard time differentiating the simulation from reality. They were very frustrated by what was happening to them and didn’t feel that they had the power to change it.”

After everything had calmed down, the moment of revelation was revealed.

Life is just like this simulation.

The groups represented the different socioeconomic classes that citizens fall into. The trading and the other drawings represent the work that one puts into making more money or trying to get out of one’s social class.

Often times, students of any age don’t see the actual hard work that goes into managing their family and especially what it takes to manage other people’s families. When one only sees someone for eight hours five days a week, one can’t know everything about other people.

With this activity, the socioeconomic issue was brought to the ELP students, leading more of them to think: how can I solve that problem?

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