Teaching children about fair trade is vital for them to understand how choices they will make in the future impact communities in the developing world. Fair trade is about ensuring that producers of raw materials and products in the developing world are paid a fair price for their work. The drive to sell products for cheaper prices and for multinational corporations to make larger profits can mean that these producers across the world are exploited. The fair trade movement seeks to reverse this trend, and there are a number of activities perfect for helping young people grasp the meaning of fair trade.
Calculating Fair Trade
This is a mathematical activity in which schoolchildren calculate and analyse the difference between fair trade and non-fair trade prices. Hand out work sheets, available on the School Coop website (see references), and ask children to make some calculations. Decide whether or not they can use calculators depending on their age and abilities. The calculations ask them to work out the prices of fair trade and non-fair trade goods and then calculate the difference between the two. Once the students have done the calculations, use the task to prompt a discussion about fair trade. Ask them why they think there is a price difference and encourage discussions on the topic.
What Fair Trade Is, What It's Not
This activity involves organising a series of statements into categories of whether they are or are not true of fair trade. Divide students into small groups of three or four. Give each group the same statements from the School Coop website, which are mixed up and written on different pieces of paper. Ask them to divide the statements into two piles -- one for fair trade and one for non-fair trade. Examples of these statements include "pays decent wages," "helps provide education," "uses child labour" and "encourages the use of chemicals."
This is an activity suitable for high school students and is about following the path of a banana from the plantation where it is grown to a fruit bowl in someone's home. Divide the class into five groups. Allocate each group one of the five main jobs in the banana chain: banana worker, plantation owner, shipper, importer and ripener and retailer. Tell the students that a banana costs 50 cents. Ask them to decide how much of the 50 cents they should receive for their job in the banana chain and prepare an argument for why they should receive this fee. Then have a group negotiation to decide on how much each group will agree to accept until the total comes to 50 cents. Then reveal to the class the true average breakdown of who gets what from the price of a non-fair trade banana. This can be followed by a discussion or an essay assignment about whether this situation is fair, who has the power and why, and what can be done to improve the situation.
Fair Trade Café
Fair trade activities do not just have to be done on a class by class basis; they are something the whole school can get involved in. Setting up a fair trade cafe for a week is just one idea. Serve fair trade hot chocolate, or coffee for the teachers, and sell fair trade snacks such as bananas, chocolate bars and cakes. Have information posters about fair trade at the cafe and encourage students to develop some marketing skills by persuading the other students to come along on their breaks. Introduce an element of competition by having a different class run the cafe every day, and the class that makes the most profit wins. All profits could be donated to Fair Trade USA.