Cindy Smith: Learning begins with, “Who are you wearing?”

To teach her sixth graders about international trade, Cindy Smith has them check out each other’s clothing.

They inspect the labels to determine where they were made. Then they plot the countries on a world map.

“A discussion takes place on the reason these countries – mainly located in Latin America and Asia – are used and the pros and cons of that choice,” explains Smith, a veteran teacher who currently teaches geography at Booth Middle School in Fayette County. “The students create a bulletin board of an article of clothing with a statement describing the benefits of trade which are hung on a clothesline.”

This exercise is called “The Importance of Trade,” and it’s from the Georgia Council’s “Wide World of Trade” workshop that helps middle school teachers demonstrate voluntary trade, interdependence and specialization.

“When Cyprus and Greece were going through financial instability, my class understood the role of the European Union and how one country's failures could have a demise on the entire EU if not given assistance. Great classroom debates were exhibited.”

Smith says her students do quite well on the Economics portion of the state Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT), with over 80 percent exceeding the Economics section.

She credits the Georgia Council for much of that success.

“Attending a GCEE workshop should be required for all middle school social studies teachers,” she says. “The Council provides a wealth of useful information including grade appropriate, hands on lessons that enhance student achievement.”