Key stages 12:map the origin of products to develop knowledge of places and interdependence (PoS 3b, eg).
KS3: consider the ways products are labelled, eg organic, fair trade. How does this affect price? Find out, for instance, what percentage of the retail price coffee bean growers receive (PoS 6bi).
GCSEA-level: Students could carry out an environmental impact analysis of an out-of-town superstore. How far do people travel to the store? Compare the location of high street, convenience and out-of-town stores. If a family shops on the internet, does the environment benefit?
Organise a role-play to explore the arguments for and against out-of-town stores. Ask an A-level group to describe the distribution of products within a store.
Investigate the supply networks of supermarkets, for example, what is the distribution radius of a warehouse, how frequent are deliveries, is fresh produce sourced locally, are there controls on delivery times?
KS12: children could perform their own Supermarket Checkout Suite. They will need a "bar-code" motif, say six notes to be played on a keyboard or glockenspiel. This can vary each time new foods go through the till: 123456, 123465, 132456 etc. Then they need distinctive sounds for separate categories of food. Pupils can improvise a short phrase to describe each food as it approaches the till and play its rhythm on their instrument.
Send the foods through the till, with the bar-codes bleeping in rondo-variation manner and the instrumental rhythms pitter-pattering a nutritious melange.
Your pupils will realise just how complex and effective supermarkets' sales techniques are. They may even part with some trade secrets. Use their knowledge to explore branding, distinctions between perceptions of own brand and other products; product choice and personal identity; use of colour; text on packaging; the naming of products and ranges; the packaging itself; advertising, especially on television; lighting and presentation; positioning of items on shelves; muzak; attractive smells.
You might ask them to explore the image associated with each supermarket.
Ask them to select a single product and design its packaging and display.
Ask pupils to examine 10 items from a supermarket and identify their country of origin. The sample should include fresh produce and meat. With an atlas, work out how far each item has travelled and who grew the food.
The Fairtrade website www.fairtrade.org.ukabout_benefits.htm will help.
Look at the difficulties of farmers in this country; few people realise that for every pound;1 spent in supermarkets on British-sourced food farmers receive, on average, 9p.
www.farmersmarkets.netlinksdefault.htm (includes a link to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's site www.rivercottage.net) www.countryside.gov.ukLivingLandscapeseat_the_viewwelcome.asp Harry Dodds
Visit a supermarket. Find out how the products are set out and displayed.
Interview the manager and other staff. Use prepared questions about advertising, special promotions, loyalty schemes and price wars.
Use your findings to design your own supermarket layout. Decide who you hope to attract. Hold a competition for the best new name. Talk to older people about how shopping has changed over the past 20 to 30 years. Prepare a talk about the changes using mime, pictures and tableaux.
Use a plan of a supermarket that shows product placement. Write some shopping lists and plan different routes around the supermarket to meet set criteria.
Use a map to plot the whereabouts of different supermarkets. Suggest reasons for their placement.
Set up your own school shop. Think about shelf height, service and product promotion.
Design an advertisement for the supermarket.
This subject can be used in KS4 religious studies ethics or adapted to KS2 PSHE. The focus should be on consumerism and the problems its raises.
Questions might include: Supermarkets and churches both have aisles, but do they have anything in common in what they try to provide? Are supermarkets really greedy or simply providing a service in which they have to make profits to survive? In what ways do supermarkets support green issues or fair trade? Supermarkets want to promote the idea that they are there to "look after" us. Do we believe them? Although people use loyalty cards, are they really loyal to supermarkets? Could you imagine having a spiritual experience in a supermarket? Could we do without supermarkets?