This past week, Anna came in to help us dive deeper into this idea of community and trading. We wanted the children to see how trading impacted different parts of the world. During Anna's first visit with us, she asked who they thought was the richest person in history. Some of their responses included Jeff Bezos, the creator of Netflix, Walt Disney, and even a fellow classmate. To their surprise, not one of these guesses was correct. The correct answer was Mansa Musa, with an estimated net worth of $400 billion.
The children listened to the story, Mansa Musa, The Richest Man in History, by Mike McCraw. They learned how he became the leader of Mali and how is gained his wealth by expanding the salt and gold trade in his empire. During his travel to Cairo, his caravan gave away gold to the commoners to the point that the value of gold decreased significantly. The children were quite intrigued by this idea of having wealth and just simply giving it away to others. This was apparent as the children chose this aspect to share during their skits showing parts of his life that they found intriguing. I couldn't help but wonder if the reason why so many of them chose this event in his life was because it resonated with them. During the nature shops, the children made sure all members of the community were satisfied with their purchases, no matter how much or how little currency they had or how few items they had to trade. There were times I even witnessed the children giving away their items if someone asked for them with nothing to give in return. What drove these second graders and Mansa Musa to simply give away their beloved treasures? Was it a strong moral compass? Did it have to do with power? Did it have to do strictly with economics? A combination of these...or something totally different? I do not know.
Below is one of the groups that I was able to capture using pieces of gold to tell one of the parts of Mansa Musa's life.
The next day, we discussed further their wonderings about Mansa Musa. The first wondering was about how old he was when he died. The children figured this out by counting by tens from his birth to his death. He died when he was 57. To this day, his passing is a mystery. The children began to share theories about his death and the common theme that emerged with their ideas had to do with the wealth and power he held in his empire. We dove deeper into this idea how greed can affect a community from the perspective of both the commoner and the government.
Anna came in again later on during the week and revisited this idea of trade and power. The children were in groups with the power of having either all the salt, cinnamon, gold, or camels. Their goal was to work the room and make trades to acquire at least one camel, some gold, some salt, and some cinnamon. There were a few groups that were successful in accomplishing this while others were not. There was discussion afterwards about the impact of not fulfilling each of the needed items in a community and how it may affect them.
I am looking forward to learning alongside of the children to see where these ideas of economics may lead us.
Some random facts about me...