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.”

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 66th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 104th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,683 students from 47 states and 19 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.