I teach eleventh and twelfth grade at Hyde Leadership High School, a New Haven Magnet School, located in Hamden Connecticut. Our population of students is drawn from the surrounding towns, including West Haven, East Haven, Branford, etc. The Hyde program is one that forces students to get out of their comfort zone and examine their lives and daily actions to develop their character and to become well-rounded adults. The character program manifests itself in many ways day-to-day at Hyde, during school meetings, senior evaluations and character periods that happen weekly. This unit, which involves some introspective contemplation is part of our academic curriculum and our Character Curriculum. Most of my students are on reading level, and although many have academic challenges, most of those are (somewhat ironically) motivation issues. In this unit I plan to present material not only about motivation and emotion but also about how companies use our emotions and motivations to drive our economic choices.
Students will understand their role in consumer culture, both how they are manipulated by the system via advertisements, as well as how students manipulate the system via market research. Students will learn some basic background psychological information in the form of graphic organizers, structured note-taking, and a 'What? Why?' journal; after which they will view clips from the PBS documentary The Merchants of Cool (2001) which shows teenagers role in the current consumer culture. Students will also read parts of Lars Perner's The Psychology of Marketing, which directly connects the world of Psychology with the world of consumerism clearly and concisely. After being presented with this information, the students will consider their own personal connection to the economy by writing an essay that explains some purchases they have made with detailed descriptions of why they may have made the choices they have.