Published on November 25, 2014 by Dr. Michele Haralson  

Samford University’s Orlean Bullard Beeson School of Education recently hosted a poverty simulation for education students to help prepare them for working with children and families from all populations upon student teaching and graduation.

The simulation was sponsored by the School of Education’s Diversity Committee. Michele Haralson, director of curriculum materials and technology center and chair of the committee, explained the purpose of the event was to prepare education student to meet the needs of all learners. 

“Depending on where they end up teaching, it is very likely our students will work with families in poverty,” Haralson said. “Therefore, it is important they understand the experience of those in poverty as most of our students do not come from this background.”

The simulation included junior and senior leadership teams serving as community workers, while the remaining students played the roles of members of families living in poverty. The activity included several different family makeups living through a month of poverty, which consisted of four 15-minute weeks in the simulation. During the week, the students experienced what it is like for those in poverty to put their children in school and daycare, pay bills, feed their families and get from one place to the other without personal transportation.

Haralson said the participating students completed pre- and post-surveys in order to gather information on the effectiveness of the event.

Senior elementary education major Tabitha Whitacre played a grocery store owner who was charged with collecting food stamps in the simulation but said she learned what it is like for those who live in poverty. “This simulation will always stick with me as it provided a little insight into the lives of families and students I may one day teach.”