The (Other) Game of Life: Poverty Simulation
Dec05

The (Other) Game of Life: Poverty Simulation

No, I’m not talking about a re-vamped version of your parents’ favorite Milton Bradley game. In fact, for many people it’s not a game at all. Poverty is an epidemic that affects everyone – whether they live it, or they help fund the programs for those that live it. Out of the 316+ million people in America, over 46 million live in poverty, meaning the national poverty rate is at around 14.6%. To break it down even further (according to the U.S. Census Bureau), Indiana’s poverty rate is an estimated 14.7% and Fort Wayne is at a desperate 17.5%. It’s very alarming to find that our beloved city has a poverty rate significantly higher than the national average. That is a lot of people in need. You often hear about professors, coaches, and pastors talking to others about the importance of giving back and helping to make a difference in the world, but you don’t see many people putting on entire simulation productions in order to help others experience impoverished lifestyles first-hand. Insert Dr. Rachel Rayburn, Assistant Professor of Public Policy at IPFW. For the second year in a row, she has worked in collaboration with CANI to conduct a Poverty Simulation event that engages her students in “experiential learning.” Dr. Rayburn chooses this highly interactive opportunity over a traditional final exam, and she has plenty of good reason to do so: “There are a lot of stereotypes out and questions about poverty and homelessness. Some are true – some are not. Poverty is also a relative concept. What one person perceives as “poor” could be another person’s affluence. One of the benefits of an event like this is that my students are free to explore controversial questions. This event may not provide all the answers to every question about poverty, but it gives an opportunity to consider assumptions. Further, poverty involves a lot of organizations and systems. The simulation does not just deal with shelters and food stamps (although they are interesting systems to navigate if you haven’t had those experiences). We also incorporate public schooling, law enforcement, corrections, pawnshops, employment, marriage, and other social institutions. Again, I’ll emphasize experiential learning – making meaning from direct experience. I really pressure my students to go find things out for themselves. Just this semester, we have been to the Allen County Department of Homeland Security, Community Harvest Food Bank, The Rescue Mission, and Allen County Juvenile Corrections among other places. I lecture and I show videos, but there is simply no comparison to the full experience of the sights, sounds, smells, and emotions that occur within these institutions. I greatly appreciate these organizations taking...

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