Final Four here we go!
I feel like most of this list could have been filled with Culture Shocks. From the Dark Ages where we rebuild society one card house at a time all the way to Pirates where we swab the desks, make up pirate names for ourselves (Pistol Totin' Roughton!), and write poems in pirate talk - I love them all and my kids do too. In order to keep the list interesting I decided to just pick one. Then I couldn't just pick one. So, instead, I picked the two with the most direct connections to our state standards so nobody has an excuse not to try them.
In the Reformation shock students experience two extreme aspects of life at the time period. First, they are forced to take a quiz in French to simulate the frustration many felt with having all Biblical texts presented in Latin. Secondly, they get a chance to buy (literally) forgiveness for their certain failing grade on that quiz. These two experiences drive home more than any amount of reading ever could the difficulty of trying to live up to church doctrine and the utter ridiculousness of some of it at the time.
Plus, I get to show my students that I speak a little (very little) French!
In the Aztec / Inca shock students experience the Columbian Exchange and the varying communication methods of the three major American cultures. In the latter students are assigned one of the three cultures. They listen to a story (the Aztec creation myth) then take a quiz on it to determine the most powerful culture. The Mayans get to write whatever notes they want to simulate the use of syllabic language. The Aztec culture may draw any pictures they want to simulate pictographic writing. The Inca are given sticks with strings tied to them that they may use to tie knots to simulate the use of Quipus and the lack of a written language. It is hilarious and again, drives the point better than any reading could.
In the Exchange portion each student is given a card showing what items they have and what items they want. A marketplace then opens. Of course, they are not allowed to speak because the Spanish did not initially speak the languages of the natives. So, they must communicate using only physical gestures. It turns the room into one huge(ly frurstrating!) game of Charades. The kids love to hate it. I just love to love it. I greatly look forward to both of these each year.
3. The Crusades
I've mentioned this lab quite a few times in the past but it still holds up. It is usually the lab that comes in second in my annual "Which activity this year did you like most this year?" debate. Number 1? Well... stay tuned. This lab was truly a collaborative effort of the team at my school. Each of us had a part (including two amazing student teachers we had at the time) and the lab shines because of it. In it students go on a walk around the school to simulate a pilgrimage during the Crusades. We wander around, get lost, avoid barbarians and sometimes even see dragons (cars)! Along the way they do an insanely tedious map exercise to really drive home how boring these so-called "adventures" often turned out to be.
When we return to Rome at the end of the journey they receive a summary of their ultimate fate. A random few come back with riches or new inventions from the east. Most come back disappointed. Some don't quite come back at all. This activity and the unique closing really drives home the emptiness of so many of the promises made to Europeans during the Crusades. It is the only lab where we really go outside and that little hook ensures students remember it forever.
Oh, also I got to dress up as a monk.
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