As winter break approached, our district math unit had us exploring decimal relationships (including addition and subtraction of decimals). Our PYP unit was Sharing the Planet, and our central idea for the unit was "Power depends on available resources." I've been wanting to do some LARP (Live Action Role Playing) all year, but haven't been able to write anything amazing. My Dream Vacation project was a short, pulled-together activity that addressed the decimal practice, the unit theme, and a smidgen of LARP (I sort of love using that as its own noun).
I wrote a set of Google Slides with three different vacation location options. I chose London, The Grand Canyon and Hawai'i, and each location had three other choices built in. For example, you could choose different flights, different activities, and different meal plans for your trip to London. Each choice had a different cost, and student teams, pretending to be travel agents, had to make the choices they thought would create the best possible travel package.
This offered a chance for some good discussions about priorities - some were very budget-conscious, while others had different ideas about how long the travel would take, or about how long they wanted to be away.
On the second day, the teams figured out the total price of their vacation packages, with the options they had selected. We used calculators for this, because it's a real-world skill we haven't practiced yet this year, and I wanted them to be familiar with potential pitfalls. They had to read the travel information carefully to ensure they figured in all the costs, and they had to arrive at the same correct solution twice themselves before checking in with me.
This wasn't really a strong activity for decimal calculation practice, but it did address mathematical and logical thinking, such as prioritizing and estimation. They could see that in life, budget isn't always the only consideration when people make purchases. They also needed to be aware of relatively reasonable answers, so they could correct errors (that can't cost $3.97!) and begin to compare their own travel package prices to other team proposals.
On the last day, each team presented their travel packages, emphasizing budget-friendly travel, luxury travel, or something in between. They were pretty creative with this part!
Each individual drew a budget amount for vacation expenses. After the travel presentations, one person stayed at the "travel agency" to sell the package, while the other person shopped and selected a vacation package. Then they switched so the other partners could buy vacations. No one was allowed to purchase a package created at their own travel agency. Finally, students counted up the number of packages they had sold and the amount of money they made.
Students were definitely able to tie this activity to our central idea, recognizing that some people had the power to buy any travel package - or even more than one - while other people could only afford one option. They connected this to real-world spending and how money and time can be related - if you can't afford a more expensive option like a direct flight, you might have less time vacationing because your flights take longer, and maybe you can't take much time off from work, or afford a vacation at all.
Even though the role-playing element was extremely basic, the students were highly motivated to create, share, and sell their travel packages. I would like to increase the complexity of the math component, go deeper into content connections, and make the whole experience more open-ended, but this activity prompted some great collaboration and discussion. I hope it set the foundation for students to create their own scenarios we can use to investigate and understand ideas this year.
I've had the privilege of working with hundreds of students and families in IA, CT, NC, MO, TX, and Canada.