OSU Extension’s poverty simulation program helps to promote understanding

Staff Writer
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

To promote a greater understanding of poverty, OSU Cooperative Extension recently brought a poverty simulation program to Pawhuska Schools.

With the help of the Osage County Interlocal Cooperative and the Osage Nation WIC employees, teachers learned more about what it is like to live in poverty for one month. During the simulation, participants role-play the lives of low-income families — from single parents trying to care for their children to senior citizens trying to maintain their self-sufficiency on Social Security.

Poverty is a reality for many individuals and families. But unless you’ve experienced poverty, it’s difficult to truly understand. The poverty simulation is an interactive immersion experience which bridges the gap from misconception to understanding and sensitizes community participants to poverty’s realities.

The simulated “community” is a large room. Participants’ and their neighbors’ “homes” are chairs in the center. Necessary services like banks, schools and grocery stores are tables that line the perimeter of the room. The simulation would not be possible without the 20 volunteers from Osage County Interlocal Cooperative in Hominy and the Osage Nation.

Just like in real life, transportation is required for getting to work or school. Plus, food needs to be put on the table. And, you might struggle with a chronic illness. Throughout the simulation month, participants faced the daily stresses and challenges a person in poverty faces. The teachers worked together with their family to live a month in poverty.

The simulation is not a game as it’s based on the stories of real life Community Action clients. After the program concluded, teachers discussed what they learned and talked about how to affect changes in the community.

Donna Robbins, the Family and Consumer Science educator at the Osage County Extension office, was able to bring the simulation to Hominy and Pawhuska educators. She thinks it is a great tool to bring a greater understanding of the people living in poverty.

Anyone interested in bringing the poverty simulation to their business or school should contact Robbins by phone at 918-287-4170 or via email at donna.robbins@okstate.edu.