Mosaic class participates in poverty simulation

Mosaic class participates in poverty simulation

Tuesday, February 6, 2018 - 11:15am
Students participate in poverty simulation/
Participants in a Jan. 27 poverty simulation, put on by Nebraska Extension, play different roles in disadvantaged families. Here, participants wait in line to apply for jobs. (Photo by Michelle Carr Hassler)

Students in the Nebraska Mosaic course recently participated in a simulation to gain insight into the day-to-day realities faced by families in poverty.

 Nebraska Mosaic students gave up two hours on a Saturday to take part in the Jan. 27 poverty simulation, held at the Nebraska History Museum. In the simulation, put on by Nebraska Extension staff, participants assume the roles of family members living in different types of households, with varying levels or resources and obstacles. These “families” have the task of providing basic necessities during the simulation, often interacting with community agencies and services along the way.

 “The poverty simulation was a wonderful learning experience for me,” said Bekkah Watkins, a senior journalism and classical studies double-major. “I feel very grateful to have had a chance to be a part of it and I would recommend anyone who will be working with the community, the public, or public services to participate in a poverty simulation.”

 Assistant professor of practice Michelle Hassler, who teaches Nebraska Mosaic, said she wanted students to realistically experience the hardships that people with limited resources face every day so they could better report on them. Students in the course produce news and information about Nebraska’s refugees and immigrants.

 “I thought it was important for students to also see that refugees and immigrants face even bigger hurdles than those featured in the simulation because many of them find themselves in a strange and bewildering country where they do not know the language,” she said.

 In addition to the poverty simulation, Nebraska Mosaic students also observe Lincoln Literacy classes, where refugees and immigrants learn English, and attend meetings of the New American Task Force, which meets monthly to discuss issues related to refugees and immigrants.

 “Those activities help students develop empathy and a deeper understanding of the obstacles refugees and immigrants face,” Hassler said. “And they help improve their comfort level when interacting with and interviewing diverse peoples.”

 Since the Nebraska Mosaic site ( launched in 2011, more than 450 student-produced stories have been published about immigrants and refugees in the state.

 The poverty simulation was hosted by Nebraska Extension, the Nebraska History Museum and University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Minority Health Disparities Initiative as part of the “Looking Past Skin” exhibit at the museum. About 60 people participated.

 The poverty simulation was developed by the Missouri Association for Community Action and often is offered to community groups, agency workers, government officials, educators, attorneys, law enforcement, religious leaders and students.