As educators, it’s important to address the issue of poverty with our students. However, helping them truly grasp the complex nature of this global problem can be difficult to do. That’s where poverty simulation activities come in.
Engaging your students in hands-on activities that simulate the experience of living in poverty can help them develop empathy and understanding toward those who are less fortunate. See our list of 19 poverty simulation classroom activity ideas to increase student understanding of poverty.
1. Do All Children Have Sweet Dreams
This lesson teaches elementary school students about needs and wants, using examples from around the world. Helping them understand that while everyone has the same basic needs, such as a safe environment, for example, wants to vary depending on circumstances.
Learn More: HREUSA.org
2. Concern America’s 2023 Walk Out of Poverty
This poverty awareness walk is a global activity that helps students raise awareness of the realities of poverty in their communities. In this activity, classrooms are asked to walk around their local community if they can’t make it to the event in person.
Learn More: Event Brite
3. Poverty in America
This poverty simulation activity helps students understand how poverty is measured. Students will be asked to give a percentage of Americans they think are living in poverty. Students can then gain a better understanding of how poverty is defined, and how it has changed and increased over time.
Learn More: KQED.org
4. What Is Poverty And Who Are The Poor?
By engaging in search activities, students can gain a deeper understanding of the nature and extent of poverty worldwide. This activity provides powerful tools for exploring poverty and the various sources of information available on the topic.
Learn More: FTE.org
5. What’s Going On? Poverty in America
This activity provides students with an overview of homelessness; exploring the underlying causes and ethical considerations surrounding society’s treatment of the poor. Gaining a deeper understanding of the devastating impact of poverty helps students develop a greater awareness of others’ daily struggles.
Learn More: Social Studies
6. Poverty Simulation Game
SPENT is an online simulation game that helps students understand the challenges faced by people living in poverty. In this game, students are given a limited budget and asked to make decisions about how to spend it- without any access to credit cards.
Learn More: White Noise Lab
7. Canned Food Scavenger Hunt
This practical activity involves your students searching for non-perishable food items around the house or community to donate to a local food bank or shelter. This way, they learn about poverty all while taking community action and providing community services.
Learn More: Seed Bed
8. The Dynamics of Poverty
Students are asked to take on the role of a person living in poverty and make decisions about how to manage their limited resources. Through this role-playing activity, students can gain a better understanding of how to show empathy and support to those in need.
Learn More: Stairway to SDG
9. The Privilege Walk
A privilege walk helps students identify the privileges that they are fortunate enough to have in their lives. By taking steps forward or backward based on prompts, students can see how their experiences differ. This activity highlights how systemic inequalities and barriers can impact individuals and communities.
Learn More: Experiences Canada
10. Videos About Poverty
Watching videos about poverty can be a powerful way for students to learn about the realities of the world around them and the historical context around the situations. It can help them develop empathy and understanding for those who are struggling with poverty and motivate them to take action.
Learn More: Rebekah Gienapp
11. Poverty Quiz Worksheet
In this quiz, students are asked to answer various questions about poverty, its causes, and its effects. Through this activity, your students will practice reading and comprehension, explaining information, and remembering core details they have learned- all while learning about socioeconomic status!
Learn More: Study.com
12. The Puzzle of Poverty
In this lesson, a comprehensive method for addressing poverty is presented. This involves identifying the necessary resources and values to support the flourishing of communities. Arrange students into small groups; each with a puzzle set. Some pieces from each puzzle set should be removed.
Learn More: World Vision Philanthropy
13. Global Poverty Learning Day
This resource provides everything needed to host a global poverty learning day for students in years 9 to 13. Students will learn about global poverty, identify issues that interest them, and prepare a plan of action as a group to raise awareness and influence decision-makers.
Learn More: Oxfam Library
14. The Poverty Game Show
This poverty game show is an interactive activity that helps school students understand the complexities of poverty. In this Jeopardy-style game, students are asked to answer questions about various aspects of poverty. This is an engaging way to educate your learners.
Learn More: USCCB.org
15. Create A Video For Awareness
One of the best ways to teach learners is by helping them take community action. Students of this day and age will best know how to do this through one of their privileged resources- the internet and creating video content. Encourage them to drive awareness by creating an awareness video.
16. Volunteer At The Homeless Shelter
If your students are old enough, it may be worth considering spending the day with them volunteering at a homeless shelter. You could take various angles with this excursion, however, it would be opportune to teach them about food stamps and the value of supporting social services.
17. BROKE! The Board Game
This board game simulates the stressful and challenging experience of attempting to overcome poverty. The game is designed to be simple to set up and can be played in approximately 45 minutes. It’s sold at cost and encourages players to expand their perspectives.
Learn More: The Game Crafter
18. Hit Your Local Food Joints And Grocery Stores
Take your students to visit the local grocery store and food joints to help them learn the true value of food. Have your students note down the prices of essential foods, and upon returning to class, do an activity illustrating the minimum wage to put things in perspective about income versus expenses.
19. Low-Income Community Tour
Older students may benefit from participating in a low-income community tour in their area. Be sure to work with a professional and safe tour company to keep your students safe and the tour educational. Try to encourage your students to bring along items to donate to the community they visit.