As you and I know, the supply chain is like air. It is everywhere. We live in it and from it.
Kids understand getting things like toys and candy and other stuff that parents buy for them, but unless the parents take the time to talk about corn flakes and farmers and cereal companies, the kids just consume and move on and don’t learn a thing.
I think kids can be taught to understand the world in a different way through the lens of the supply chain. This grows out of a pet peeve of mine, which is that the elementary schools are not really preparing kids for the real world.
Give a person a fish...
My granddaughter asks me so many interesting questions about chemicals and why they put them in food if you can already eat the food when it comes out of the ground. I haven’t discussed GMOs with her yet, but I see that time coming soon.
It won’t be long before she is making independent decisions about what she will eat and wear.
Out of those questions emerged an idea for a supply-chain game and teaching tool. This game can grow with the child’s understanding and gives him or her an opportunity to ask questions that he or she never would have thought of previously.
By giving my granddaughter a background understanding of supply chain dynamics, I think she will end up making better economic and health-based decisions.
For example, she can say Materials, and I can respond “farming, forestry, and chemicals.” She can say Salesperson, and I can say “Mr. Idontcare” (the name and picture of a salesman for a manufacturer that puts out harmful products).
Teach a person to fish…
As the game progresses through Processes to final Products, she learns that Mr. Idontcare has used the forestry process to make paper, the farming to grow tobacco, and the chemicals to make hundreds of chemicals that are added to the tobacco to make cigarettes as the final Product.
She then tells me that she does not want to use her money to buy the cigarettes and Mr. Idontcare should not sell things that hurt people. We can turn this game session into a discussion of why cigarettes are bad for people and why they can continue to be sold.
In this way, the game becomes a learning tool instead of just saying to a child, “Don’t smoke cigarettes because they are bad for you."
If children can gain an early sense of justice and health around supply chain issues, then their decisions in life on what to buy or participate in become much more informed, and it isn’t just answer to the “Why” that resolves itself into a parent’s offhanded response of “Because I told you so.”
The logistics part of the game has trucks, trains, and ocean-going freighters that have all kinds of difficulties getting the goods to the person who wants to buy them.
In introducing logistics, we introduce ideas of customs, duty, and freight, CIF that cost an extra penny over and above the 25 cents for the item being purchased and imported. Actually, with a stack of real pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters, the child can make purchases and get change. This teaches them about rational exchanges using real money.
For an extra thrill, use Monopoly money and increase the Products to things like cars, boats, and homes. Each item is an opportunity to teach about greater details or intricacies involved in the supply chain. If you are going to buy a house, you have to pay the real estate person a commission. Negotiations are acceptable, and role playing is a natural outcome of the higher level transactions.
I've even considered a kid's version of classes teaching about the supply chain. In any event, we can all learn from looking at our world from different angles, can't we?