Barter Day!

What is Barter Day? Barter Day is an opportunity for students to practice skills that were important in early colonial life when money was in short supply. Instead of paying for things, they usually traded. For example, if I were a carpenter and you were a farmer, I would say “I would fix your house if you give me some jalapeno peppers!”

We talked to Mr. Keohane to learn more about Barter Day. Barter Day, in our school, started 10-15 years ago, and it is still going! Food items are unfortunately not allowed, including condiments unless permitted by your teacher. Services are allowed, however your teacher has to approve it and any services related to homework is not usually allowed. Some people buy things while other people made homemade items. Our Teacher and 3 students wearing their newly traded homemade hats.It’s recommended to spend less than $20. Some of the weirdest and coolest things people have brought in are homemade candles, wood work, arts & crafts, and slime. In our classroom people brought in the best things ever. Some of the things people brought in homemade hats, spinners, hot sauce.

We think Barter Day is a great way for kids to learn about the economy in the 17th and 18th centuries in Colonial America. It was interesting to negotiate a trade,and arrive what both parties agreed to what’s a fair trade. We all had fun trading for items from our classmates.

Reported by Walker and Noah


Will you trade me a pound of butter for a pound of sugar? Bartering was a common means of purchasing and selling items during the Colonial time period. The colonists had currency but most bartered. Eight years ago Chickering began Barter Day to help 5th graders learn more about Colonial times.

We talked to Mr. Wadness, a 5th grade teacher, to learn more about Barter Day. He shared, “Barter Day is a day in which students have to make something that other students want. And why we do that is because, it’s just like when Colonists came to America and there was no monetary system. Some Colonist in their home might need food or a piece of furniture. And they didn’t happen to have that so what they had to do was either make something that they could make or if they were farmers they had food that other people wanted but they might not have had furniture. So they would have to trade or barter, that’s what it’s called, it’s a form of money really, a form of exchanging goods that people think of are equal value. You might be able to exchange a bushel of corn for a desk. So that is what bartering is. We practice that so students make something hopefully that other students want so they can get something that they want.”              

Mr. Wadness explained why we have Barter Day. “So the reason why we do it is because it’s a great way for students to have a hands-on experience of bartering. And to experience what it’s like to exchange something without using money; making something and exchanging it for goods. And it allows them to experience what it was like back in the 1700’s.”

Chickering began Barter Day, for 5th graders. “ We have been doing Barter Day for probably about 7-8 years. Once the fifth grade began teaching about the Colonies, and that part of US history; we thought Barter Day would be a great way for students to experience bartering. The same way they did many years ago, as a form of exchange of goods,” informed Mr. Wadness.

We were curious to know what the most unusual item he has ever seen brought in for Barter Day. He shared, “Wow! … when duct tape things were in vogue, the first year, duct tape wallets and duct tape items were so cool.  Even things on pencils. I still have a pen flower that some student made with duct tape at the end and it was like a tulip and I thought that was actually pretty cool. I knew it took them a long time to make some of those wallets. Um, some people made some real [pet] rocks and decorated them. And they really made them so cool a lot of kids wanted them and I think in my last year’s class, a student made 5 pillows and really did great needlework on them and everyone wanted them but there was only 5 of them so not everybody could have one. So she had to be really thinking about what she wanted because she only had 5 items, the girl who made the pillows. But I thought those were some of the neater things people might have made.”

What was the most popular item for Barter Day?

The most popular item for Barter Day, in past years, Mr. Wadness explained, “ … are definitely small or handmade things. Someone made candle holders, and actually bought candles to put in them. Again, once the duct tape wallets because popular, almost every year someone made some items utilizing duct tape. Beading or bead work, there are some people who enjoy making necklaces and wrist bracelets out of beads. Another thing people made were bookmarks, some made them out of paper, some made them out of duct tape; those were really popular items. Almost every year some, people sew things together to make creatures or small pillow or even balls and out of stuffing that they made themselves. Some people, of course, do bring in some food. But we try to discourage the food aspect because if everyone did that there would not be much bartering. So we really don’t want them to bring in too much food items, even if they made that themselves.”

It wasn’t surprising that almost all of the students in our class liked Barter Day. Several students thought that Barter Day really brought Colonial times to life. Pie Chart showing 89.5% like Barter Day.A couple students thought it was fun to see what people made and traded. Others thought it was fun to see all the different ideas for items to be traded. People especially enjoyed trading for objects others made. A lot of people thought it was simply fun and creative as well as exciting to experience something new. A couple of students didn’t like Barter Day because they weren’t able to trade for what they wanted or were absent.  

Everyone had amazing creative items to bring in that they thought a lot about; what would be successful for Barter Day. Lots of students thought sewn articles or stress balls were going to be popular, and others thought baked goods would be key. Everyone who brought in baked goods thought they would be really popular, like delicious brownies, Panda cupcakes and Rice krispie treats. Other people brought in things like, things made of fleece like blankets which were very popular and pillows and some other things. There were amazing crafts such as fake brains, cards, Perler beads, Morph Cups and 3 people made stress balls out of balloons. Overall, the students had really imaginative items for Barter Day.
It was interesting to see and experience  how Colonists used bartering as a means currency of during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Reported by: Paige, Bella and Ashley