My second graders are studying the African country of Mali. They are also learning the economic term "barter" in second grade. So my curriculum has the kids making beads of various types, with which they barter for other beads.
I wasn't enthusiastic about this lesson when it was first presented. It seemed more copy craft than art. Honestly, I still think it is, but the kids love this lesson. They like the bead making part, and I have tried to jazz it up a bit so it isn't just about rolling beads. But they just absolutely love trading those things. The class is divided into store owners and shoppers, and then they switch rolls. All the kids look happy as they do this shopping and selling, and somehow no kid ever misses out. The kids seem to make sure everyone gets the opportunity to trade, even the bead makers who make the more homely beads.
Watching the evening news last night, they featured a local woman who has just opened a shop which sells paper rolled beads made by Ghanan women. This endeavor has provided a huge economic boost to the women and their villages. These women are now powerful participants in an ecomony they were formally not a part of. That knowledge makes me love this lesson more.