The distribution of wealth and power within society usually affects
a person’s opportunities to achieve full human rights and live a life
with dignity. This activity involves the distribution of wealth. It
challenges participants to examine the concepts of “fairness” and
“responsibility” and reflect on their own actions.
Time: 1 hour Materials:
100 pennies (or 100 peanuts or wrapped
candies for younger participants)
Setting: Elementary school
Š Adult groups (See suggestions
for adaptation for young children
at end of activity,)
Keep in mind the socioeconomic composition of your participant population.
Guard against having this activity confirm the existing inequalities
in wealth and power.
PART A:The Scramble
1. Explain to participants that in this activity they will distribute
the wealth and power of the world among themselves. This wealth is
represented by the 100 pennies. There is only one rule: no participant
may touch another member of the group at any time.
2. Arrange the room so that participants have a fairly large area
to play the game. Have participants stand or sit in a circle and scatter
the pennies evenly in the middle of the circle. Withhold three participants
from this part of the activity. Distribute mittens for some participants
to wear but postpone discussion of reasons for this until debriefing.
Note: To emphasize that some start off with more than others,
consider giving three or four participants five extra pennies to begin
with as well as providing them with special scooping shovels.
At the order of GO, have participants (except the three withheld)
gather as many pennies as possible without touching one another. Note:
Penalties for violations of this rule may be needed, such as removal
from the game or payment to the person touched.
After all the pennies have been collected, have participants report
their wealth to the class. Record participants’ names and number of
pennies on a board or chart paper under three categories:
1) GREAT WEALTH AND POWER
(those with six or more pennies—the smallest group);
2) SOME WEALTH AND POWER” (those with three to five pennies—the middle
3) LITTLE WEALTH AND POWER” (those with two or fewer pennies—the largest
4. Remind the group that these pennies represent their wealth and
power in the world. The amount they possess will affect their capacity
to satisfy their needs (e.g., basic education, adequate food and nutrition,
good health care, adequate housing) and wants (e.g. higher education,
cars, computers, toys, television and other luxury items). Those participants
with six or more pennies will have their basic “needs” and most of
their “wants” met; those with three to five pennies will have their
basic needs met, and those with two or fewer pennies will have difficulty
surviving due to disease, lack of education, malnutrition, and inadequate
5. Tell participants that they may, if they wish, give pennies to
others; however, they are not required to do so. Tell them that those
who do share will be honored as “DONORS,” with their names placed
on the board. Allow a few minutes for participants to redistribute
the pennies if they wish. Then ask for the names of those who gave
away pennies and the amount each gave. List them on the board or chart
entitled “DONORS.” Ask if anyone changed category as a result of giving
or receiving pennies and record these shifts on the chart.
6. Explain that some people in their country (and perhaps in their
community) and in every country around the globe lack adequate necessities,
such as food, education, health care, and shelter. Point out that
others, often in the same community or country, are able to acquire
almost everything they need and want.
PART B:Creating Economic “Fairness”
1. Divide participants into groups according to the number of pennies
they have. Distribute those three participants withheld from the original
"scramble" randomly among the different groups. Make note of their
reactions to being placed in one group rather than another but save
discussion of their placement until the debriefing session.
2. Give each group the task of creating a plan for the fair distribution
of the pennies (the world’s wealth). Each group should prepare to:
a) show why their plan is fair, b) explain what needs to be done (if
anything), and c) describe what the group plans to do and why. Give
the groups ten minutes to devise their plans.
3. Ask each group to appoint a spokesperson to explain their plan
to the others and answer questions. After the plans have been presented
and discussed, announce that a vote will now be held on which plan
4. When participants are ready to vote, announce the following: Participants
with six or more pennies have five votes, those with three to five
pennies have two votes, and those with two or fewer pennies have one-half
vote. This strategy reinforces the fact that the distribution of power
often reflects that of wealth.
Have participants vote and tabulate the results. Announce which plan
is to be implemented. Carry out this plan, redistributing the wealth
PART C:Debriefing the Activity
Debriefing is an essential step in this process.
on the following questions to promote a productive discussion. Be
sure to devote time to a discussion of changes needed and changes
Ask participants to find magazine and newspaper articles about the
global and/or national distribution of goods and resources and of
wealth and poverty.
a. Ask participants to find data about the distribution of wealth
in the world, in the USA, and in their state or community. Have them
create charts and diagrams to illustrate the distribution of wealth.
Then ask them to generate questions that emerge for them from these
b. Ask participants to research and write an essay on how the inequalities
of distribution relate to another current issue (e.g., AIDS, health
in general, the space program, crime, and environmental destruction).
3. Films. Show films about this topic. (See the Appendix for
4. Writing. Immediately after debriefing the activity, ask
participants to write on topics like these:
ADAPTATIONS FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN
children may need more concrete items to work for. Instead of using
pennies to represent another reward, try using shelled peanuts or
small wrapped candies, and tell children that they will be allowed
to eat the treats when the activity has been completed. The rewards
attached should be designed to be meaningful to the participants
playing the game. For example, each penny could signify a certain
amount of extra recess or free time in class or a special treat
from the teacher. Design the rewards to be valuable enough to make
authentic distinctions between the “wealthy and powerful” and the
“poor and weak.
2. When debriefing with young children, focus on their views of “fair”
and “unfair” and their proposals for making matters more fair. The
discussion questions need to be modified for the appropriate developmental
Written by Sherry Kempf and David Shiman, Center for World Education,
University of Vermont. Adapted from S. Lamy, et al, Teaching Global
Awareness with Simulations and Games, (Denver: Center for Teaching
International Relations, University of Denver, 1994).
1- Imagine a Country
EARNING POWER, PROFIT, AND RESPONSIBILITY: