When Learning and Service Meet: Grade 7 Gift Economies Project

In Mrs. Marie Clement’s Grade 7 Individuals and Societies classes, learning about ancient economies usually happens through an experiential, hands-on approach. Students not only learn about different ancient economies, but also participate in one by creating, selling, and donating the profits from natural, handmade goods.

This year, with her classes spread apart and students stuck at home, this engaging and interactive activity was just not possible for Mrs. Clement to put on. Still, she was determined to find another way – a different way! – for students to experience these important concepts… If a cash economy wasn’t possible to recreate, what was? 

A gift economy.

The classes had explored many ancient, First Nations cultures whose communities shared what was hunted, gathered, or made. “The goal,” she explains of these communities, “was to take care of everyone; there was no direct exchange of goods, services, or money… simply a circle of giving and a desire to look after each other.”

By participating in a gift economy, students would still experience an ancient economy, while also spreading kindness, cheer, and goodwill in their neighbourhoods. Which, now more than ever, we need. Check out what students made and find out what they discovered.

On what they learned…

I enjoyed painting the rocks and when my neighbours said “good job” to me. The challenges were probably taking care of my sister while painting the rocks, because she likes to make trouble. My emotional state was proud and happy, because I felt that I did something good for the world. I learned that making a small different actually makes me really happy. However, probably the most important thing I learned throughout the whole project was that even if it is a gift economy, and you’re giving stuff away for free, you still receive a reward. The reward is actually really important, and it’s called reputation. Reputation is how other people view you. A person with a good reputation would probably be more welcomed or have more friends. Someone with a bad reputation would probably be rejected and not have any friends. Even if reputation isn’t a score, or a tracking record of 50 reps, for example, it’s still something more valuable than most rewards you’ll get from a trade or cash economy. As a result, I don’t regret doing this at all, since I had fun painting the rocks and displaying them. Alex


I enjoyed coloring and drawing out my hearts! Mainly because it did not involve using lots of screens; lately we have been using our screens a lot for zoom classes. It made me happy to do something using supplies and not screens. The challenge that came up for me was cutting out the hearts; I am not good at cutting so cutting small and big rounded shapes was a little tricky. In the end, the hearts turned out nice and I'm proud of them! My emotional state while I was creating my gift economy project was energetic because I was looking forward to making this project and sharing it with my community. Also, because I love making crafts and coloring in my own designs! My emotional state after I shared my gift with my community was proud and happy. I was happy by brightening people's day and stretching their smiles wider. I was proud from accomplishing my goal to finish and I was proud the way it looked because it looked amazing from the outside and you could see the bright colors I used! From the gift economy project, I learned that doing something for the community and not expecting anything back from them made me feel good by knowing that I did a caring act. Also, I learned how to create and color new designs for the hearts like what colors would look good with each other and what colors would look good for the design. Maryam


I really enjoyed this project because I like drawing things a lot, and this project is very open to what we can do with it, so I really liked it. Another reason why I really enjoyed this project is that it helps our community since it’s not just a written essay, or a report of some sort, but a gift economy project. We can help our community while having fun ourselves. After sharing my project, I was delighted to see that a few deliverymen stood and took pictures and took some cards. It was very nice seeing people be happy for what I’d done. I learned that with a gift economy, you don’t have to get something back to be happy. You can build your happiness on top of someone else’s happiness. When others are happy from what you gave or have done for them, you can be happy too. Rainbow

I feel the people who have received the gifts were really inspired to make change. I know I have inspired people to do more. For instance, my cousin saw pictures of my rocks and decided to inspire people herself by making cards and rocks and giving them to people. I really felt great because I have given people inspiration and have given them hope that there is some joy in the world when times are so tough. The people who have been able to help the community in the hospitals need to know that there is help in the community that believes in them and that is exactly what I did. Cameron

I think that the people who received or experienced my gifts will enjoy the painted rocks and that their day will just be that much better. It also might inspire them to do something kind themselves and then give it to someone expecting nothing in return. Then that person might be inspired by the person that I inspired and so, on and so on. Or, if someone sees my rocks, then maybe they will keep it and remember that we can get through these difficult times if we just stay positive and it might even inspire them to paint some rocks and release them into the world for someone else to have. Rihanna

One thing that I enjoyed about this project was the joy of seeing people walk by every day and making them smile and making their day with what I had done with the hearts on the windows. One challenge that I overcame was thinking about others. Most of the time now-a-days, all I focus on is schoolwork and hockey and family and friends, and it made me realize that I hadn’t really contributed to the people around me, my community. This made me want to do something big and nice and I feel like I have accomplished that with this task. I was very proud and happy for myself that I did this. After dinner me and my family sit out on our front porch and people would walk by and say how nice and how pretty our window looked with all those hearts on it and that made my day knowing that I made someone else’s as well. Over this project period, I have learned that I need to stop worrying about when an assignment is due or when I have to leave for hockey practise, but to enjoy nature and the outdoors more and contribute to my community. London

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