Grade K-2, 3-5

Intro to Scarcity

Time: 60 mins,
Updated: January 25 2022,


Students will be able to:

  • Identify scarcity.
  • Explain how scarcity forces people to make choices.

In this economics lesson, students will sing and play a game to learn about scarcity.



Begin by having the words to the song “Oh, Scarcity” either projected onto your screen or hand out a printed copy of “Oh Scarcity” to students.  Have the class sing the song together to introduce students to the concept of scarcity.  Walking students through the lyrics to “Oh, Scarcity,” keep in mind the song is to the tune of “Oh, Christmas Tree.”

Explain that scarcity is not being able to have all of the goods or services you want. If good and services is too advanced, depending on their vocabulary level, substitute goods and services for things.


Lead students in singing the song once or twice. To ensure students have an understanding of the basics of scarcity, ask students answer questions about different scenarios below:

  1. Raise your hand if want a new toy. What might you need to give up to get the new toy?
  2. Have you ever shared a pizza with friends or family? Has anyone in the group wanted more pizza than they got to eat?  What happened?
  3. Have you ever wanted to have more recess or gym time?  What would you might have to give up to spend more time at recess or gym?

Group Activity

Prepare students for the musical chairs activity. Place chairs out in the room and leave one less than the number of volunteers.  Explain that the chairs in this exercise are the resources to satisfy a want. The want is to have a chair to sit in when the music stops. Quickly review the concept of musical chairs:

Please walk around the chairs slowly not touching them while the music is playing. When the music stops you need to find a chair and be seated to stay in the game. If you are left standing, please step aside so that we can continue the game, Musical Chairs.

Play the music. Stop the music. Students are expected to find a seat. The first person out usually feels a bit defeated so make sure to thank them for participating in the exercise and give them acknowledgement for taking a chance. Then remove another chair so that there is still one chair short for the number of students participating in the activity. Some students get confused and ask why you keep removing chairs? This gives you a teaching moment to explain that some resources once depleted will not return. Show images of some scarce resources like food (snacks), water or juice, playtime, etc. Make sure the examples are relevant to the class.

Continue the game. The final round takes place when there is one chair and two students playing for the same seat. The exercise is complete with one student left seated and one student standing. Once the game is finished, ask the students if they are hungry for a snack?

Individual Activity

Explain to students they need to pack their lunch.  They have a sandwich and drink packed and only have room for two more items. Show students a lunch bag (your own or a colleagues) with a sandwich and drink. Have a variety of snacks and options to put in the lunch bag.

Print a copy of the hand out the Lunch Box Scarcity Mystery – preferably not two-sided but two sheets of paper. In this activity, students need to decide which two items they should pack. Show students the different snack options that are on your desk. Have the students look at the options on the draw their two snacks on the bottom of the worksheet.  Have the students present their drawings and explain why they chose their snacks. Use these presentations as a way to reinforce that scarcity forces people to make choices.  Students might complain that they want more than two snacks.  This is also a chance for you to reinforce that scarcity forces people to choose.  In this case, there is a scarcity of space in their lunch bag.


Have students write 2-3 sentences or create a voice recording about a time where they have had to give up something because of scarcity.


Activity 1

Hand out a copy of the “The Incredible Econ” song to each student. Give each student a highlighter. Show the YouTube video The Incredible Econ on a projector screen and encourage the students to sing-a-long. Then, have students highlight all of the words they recognize from the Lunch Box Scarcity Mystery and the musical chairs activity. Play the song again and have the students dance and sing to the song. Review the words the students highlighted.