Poverty simulation gives teachers insight

Donna RobbinsOSU Extension Educator

Hominy Schools, in Osage County, participated in its first Poverty Simulation training. Teachers used this three hour simulation as part of their professional development before the start of the school year. The Poverty Simulation is a tool that helps people begin to understand what life is like with a shortage of money and an abundance of stress.

The program is suggested to take about three hours and involved 65 participants, who assume the roles of families living in poverty. Participants were placed into family groups, consisting of one- to five-person households. Some of the households had children, some were headed by single parents, some households had two parents, some included workers, and others contain one or two seniors. Each “family” received a packet of information that described their resources and needs. The task of each family was to provide for basic necessities for one month, which is represented by four 15-minute time periods (one “week” each.) Families spent each 15-minute period buying food, paying rent, and interacting with other community resources.

Sonya McDaniel of Potawatomie County trained the volunteer staffers in advance. The simulation was conducted in the elementary school gymnasium with families seated in the center. Tables representing community resources (a bank, employment office, grocery store, and pawn broker) were placed around the perimeter, and other players (a police officer, utility collector, landlord, and illegal activities person) also interacted with families during the exercise. After the simulation, participants and volunteers met together once more to discuss their situations and thoughts with others. Lindee DeRoin and Vicki Williams said the activities were “very informative” and “eye opening.” Kelly Dyre agreed, “It was a great experience.” Participants were able to view poverty from different angles and discuss the potential for change within the community.

While the national poverty rate is 15.3%, Osage County has a poverty rate of about 16.5%. This simulation was a great way for educators to help understand the needs in the community.

The Poverty Simulation Program was brought to Hominy Schools by Donna Robbins and OSU Extension. Osage County Extension 4-H educator Jessica Jantzen and Ag educator Abby Goldenberg also played a part in the program. Sonya McDaniel from Potawatomie County, Jan Maples from Okfuskee County, Brenda Miller from the North East District office and Renee Daugherty came from all over the state to present the program. The Simulation would not have been possible without the eighteen volunteers from Hominy and Pawhuska.

If you are interested in bringing this program to your community or school please contact Donna Robbins at the Osage County Extension office at 918-287-4170.