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        Oregon | Activity 4.6: Beaver Fur Trade

        Students learn about supply and demand by acting out trades with other students using different trade rates for different products, i.e., three furs for one tool, etc.

        Lesson Summary

        Students learn about supply and demand by acting out trades with other students using different trade rates for different products, i.e., three furs for one tool, etc.

        This lesson is part of "Great States: Unit 4: Early Explorers & Fur Trade." In this unit, students will explore how exploration and the fur trade impacted the Native Peoples and set the region on a path toward statehood.

        Time Allotment

        20 minutes

        Learning Objectives


        4.18: Identify key industries of Oregon.

        Supplemental Standards

        SS.05.EC.03 Understand how supply and demand influence price, and how price increases or decreases influence the decisions of consumers.

        SS.05.EC.03.01 Understand that prices rise and fall depending on supply and demand.




        1. Provide the Beaver Fur Trade handout and scissors.

        1. Have students cut out or collect representations of fur and tools that might have been used to trade between the Native Peoples and the fur traders. Explain that a part of trading was understanding supply and demand. Provide the following definitions:

          1. Supply: how much of a product, service, or resource is available

          2. Demand: how much people are willing to pay for a product or service they want

        1. Large supplies, low demand, and cheaper manufacturing costs can lead to products with lower prices. On the other hand, products that are in low supply, high demand, and expensive to make can have higher prices or trade value.

        1. Collect the cut out resources (beaver pelts, bear meat, and tools), and give different amounts back to each student. For example, one student might have only bear meat, another might have only beaver pelts, and another might have a combination. Explain that the goal is to trade with classmates so that they have two of each resource by the end of the exercise. If you would like to teach the concepts of scarcity and trade deficits, you may wish to keep different amounts from the deck so that there are more beaver pelts than bear meat, or more tools than beaver pelts, so that there are unequal amounts of resources.

        1. Instruct students to establish a trade equivalency, i.e., how many furs equal a tool? Have them consider factors such as supply, demand, and cost when they set up these trade values.

        1. Have students act out the trading process by bartering to trade for desired items.

        1. Have students trade back to the original division of resources, but then take some of the items from each student away. Ask how this change affects the supply and demand and what they think would happen to trade values.

        1. Have students answer questions about the process and the possible outcomes of the trades on the handout. They should draw on prior knowledge to answer to the best of their ability. If desired, direct students through more activities from Oregon Units 3 and 4 to learn more about Native Peoples and European trade before answering the questions.

        Answer Key:

        1. Native Peoples did not use European currencies, so trading was a practical way to exchange goods.

        2. Native Peoples needed tools and weapons, and the fur traders needed furs.

        3. Answers will vary.


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