While not a tech project, I thought people might be interested in seeing The World Game that we are playing in our classroom. Based on Michael Wesch’s World Simulation, I wanted to design a simpler middle school version that would allow me to hit a number of social studies curriculum objectives.
I need to teach my students about current trends in the world: urbanization, globalization, climate change, the UN, etc. I REALLY was not interested in the standard research and essay type of project. These kinds of topics are close to my heart and I knew that approaching them in this way would suck all of the life out of them. I wanted something much more interactive.
So I came up with this game.
It all started with this world map that I drew:
I drew this map (which at that point had no names on it) and did not show it to my students to begin with. I simply drew random shapes, making sure I had some big places and other small. I wanted some islands and some places with mountains or rivers on them. After I had this done, I placed white paper over top of this large map and traced each of the countries individually. That gave me maps like these:
While still not having told my class anything about what we were doing, I organized them into groups of 3 and told each group to pick one shape. While some of the kids wondered if this was kind of psychological test, each group chose one; a few of them commenting something like, “gee, these look like little countries.”
At this point, I told them to recall the last two classes where we had discussed some of the major issues like urbanization, sustainable development and climate change. They had been quite critical of some of these ideas so I told them that now was their chance to do things differently. I told them that the space they had chosen was their nation and that they were going to have the opportunity to make decisions for it. First it would need a name.
After that, I gave them this document to get them started:
This paper simply gave the groups a list of things they could put in their nations. They were required to have a few communities and some farmland (to feed their population) but after that, they could choose up to four other things to put in their spaces. I told them that they had to choose carefully and wisely as the choices they made today could have both positive and negative consequences for their nation.
The reaction was fascinating. Huge debates broke out almost instantly and the students were incredibly intense as they debated what they wanted their nations to look like. At the end of this class, I also asked the students to think about a vision for their country. I gave them this scenario to start their nation:
As part of this scenario, the students had to come up with a list of economic and social priorities:
I told them that nations cannot do everything. I told them that nations need a vision for themselves and for who they want to be in the world. Once again, I told them to make choose carefully as the choices they made today could only be altered very slowly. Once again, full out debates erupted in small groups as the students decided between democracy and dictatorships. They debated the merits of having universal health care and argued between the merits and costs of having various industries. That left them with maps that were ready to being. They now looked like these:
Finally, when all was done in this class; when they had a name for their country, when they had things placed on their maps and when they set the social and economic priorities of their places, I took all of this information in. Overnight, based on what they had put on their maps, I decided upon a starting budget for each place. I had made these cards up in advance:
I also had brought a bunch of monopoly money to school that was from a new game and had bills with values into the millions.
Based on what they put on their map (and wanting to create some controversy and differences between nations) I set an opening budget for each nation. Some of them would receive cards of different types combined with cash. Others received relatively little.
The next day, when the students came in, I asked them for a food card. I told them that each round would be approximately five to ten years in our world and the food card that they had to turn in was the cost of feeding their population.
I then gave them this sheet of rules to the game:
The purpose of these rules was to set up an economy for the world we were living in.
Once we were at this starting point, we continued over the next few days with:
By this point, we were a few days in and difference in the nations were beginning to appear. Some were starting to get ahead and were having an easier time surviving from round to round. Others, were battling between themselves and were having a hard time establishing priorities or agreeing on a course of action. As well, at the close of round three, the students agreed to establish a UN style international government that allowed them to work together. The meetings were interesting as each nation sent a single delegate to talk over the pros and cons of moving in a certain direction.
As well, at the end of round three, students debated establishing trade as an international priority. It was generally agreed on that they would do this in round four.
Wanting to make this simulation both difficult and realistic, I then wrote up:
Round four brings in ideas of climate change and the difficulty that it will bring to our world. Imagine my surprise when, before I could begin round four, the students changed their minds from the day before about setting trade as a priority and instead voted in oil; running them directly into the challenges that I had set up in the round four simulation! When asked about why they had made this choice, most of the students agreed that while they had started off with wanting to look after the environment, they changed to priorities that were more industrial based as they wanted to move their economies ahead. Interesting.
Just as in reality, climate change will bring devastation to some nations and a change in fortunes to others. Some of them will want to block any efforts to stop climate change while others are now fighting for their lives. I have no idea which will this will go or how it will turn out. That’s what makes it such a great learning experience for all of us.
So this is where they presently sit. Nations are in shock as they try to decide upon a course of action. Debates and negotiations are in high gear in the classroom and outside. It seems to be all they are talking about.
I still have a long way to go with this. Many rounds still to come.
Feel free to take this idea and any of the documents you want, change and modify them to meet your needs. Any ideas you have about how this game might be changed or improved, I’d be interested to hear. Please leave your thoughts in the comments.