Ed Casey D203 Speech Slides (2)

Each year the number one request from students on their mid year and end of year survey is more simulations. Students consistently state that the BEST lessons of the year were the ones in which they were immersed in the learning. In last week’s post I wrote about “The One Lesson I Remember from Jr. High.” This detailed a simulation my 7th grade U.S. History teacher conducted to illustrate to our class the anger colonists may have felt to the new rules and taxes imposed by the British crown. I also detailed a simuation that I use with my 7th grade geography students to introduce the types of governments that was inspired by a chapter from Teach Like A PirateIn this post I will share 2 more simulations I have used in my classroom. I will also share some more resources in which you can find more ideas for simulations for your classroom.

Pandemics One of the topics that we examine in my class is how pandemics can spread faster today as a result of globalization. We also address that due to globalization we are able tackle these medical emergencies more effectively with improvements in medical care and world wide collaboration that wouldn’t have been possible without globalization. In order to address this topic I take my students back to one of the last topics they cover in 6th grade ancient civilizations, the Black Death.

As they approach my classroom they notice that the door has a black X on the door denoting that the inhabitants are infected by the plague. As they enter I have a creepy version of “Ring Around the Rosie” playing on my speakers. When they head to their seats they also notice we have 8 new guests. These guests are 8 large rubber rats that I bought from a Halloween store several years ago. I have one rat placed on each quad of 4 student desks. Junior High students can’t resist picking them up. They like even better that they squeak. Soon the room is filled with a cacophony of rubber rat squeaks.

I let it happen. Actually it is music to my ears. I love to watch as students pass the rats to their friends and classmates so that they can try. They think they are having fun. I think they are playing right into my plan. What my students don’t realize is that I have dusted each rat with GloGerm. This non-toxic chemical is used in our district by the elementary school nurses to teach effective handwashing to our grade school students. With each squeak I hear, I know I have a new victim.

I begin class by discussing the Black Death and explaining that this was a horrible pandemic. I also refresh their memories of what they learned about the topic in 6th grade. I explain we will take what they learned last year and apply it to our modern world. After a couple minutes of overview on the Black Death I show my students A Discovery United Streaming video that recaps the Black Death. I turn off the lights to make my classroom completely dark with the exception of the video being played on the projector.  As the students watch this 7 minute long clip I stealthily move behind a cabinet I have in my classroom. I don the costume I have pictured above that resembles the attire of a doctor during this time period. When the clip ends I step in front of the projector light and advise, “We have a problem. A plague has been discovered in this very classroom. They are in luck though because they have a trained doctor in the house.”

I begin calling my students up to the front of the classroom by their 4 person quads. Each student sticks their hands under a blacklight. If they have touched the rats their hands will appear like this:


If they are infected I have them go to my quarantine in the back of the classroom. If they show no sign of infection they return to their seats. On average I would say that two thirds of my students end up getting infected each time I do this lesson.

When I’m done checking for infection, I instruct the infected students to go wash their hands. While they do this, those that remain read about what ever the most recent pandemic was. In years past I have had students read about the Ebola virus, Swine Flu and Bird Flu. Newsela has been a great source for relevant grade level articles. Once all of the students have read the article they answer these questions:

  1. Can we have problems with disease similar to what occurred during the Black Death?
  2. What are some examples?
  3. Why could disease spread even faster today?
  4. How are we better equipped to deal with these issues?

After the students have answered these questions I toss a beach ball around the classroom to share out their responses.

We conclude class with this video from the HistoryTeachers (@historyteacherz).


Another topic we discuss is the effects of industrialization on our modern world. In order to do this I need to highlight the benefits of the factory model over that of cottage industry. In order to do this I have used the Mr. Casey Speedy Skate Simulation.

In this simulation I have my desks set up in rows of 5. I also have approximately 4-5 desks not in rows and spaced a part individually. I assign each person a role:

Industrial Revolution Fantasic and New 08

Students at the start of each row are handed a stack of speedy skate templates. Once the students are clear on the directions I begin the timer. As the students start cutting and gluing I play various factory noises. When the timer is up those in the assembly line format have dramatically out paced those that were doing all of the work on their own representing the cottage industries. This clearly illustrates to my students the biggest benefit to the factory model that goods could be made quicker and more efficiently. If you are looking to save paper you could have students play this free assembly line game. After this lesson I have often shared this essay “SOME LESSONS FROM THE ASSEMBLY LINE” by Andrew Braaksma. Students compared their experience to this man’s experience on an assembly line. I also follow this lesson up with this one using primary sources that I detailed in this post.

If you are looking for more resources on simulations check out these links:

Glenn Wiebe’s (@glennw98) Social Studies Central’s Simulation Page (Contains over 60 different simulations, interactive museums, and interactive websites.)

A Berlin Wall Simulation by William B. Russell III via NCSS Website

Episode 9 of the Talkin Social Studies Podcast which focuses on getting students active in social studies. You can find the resources they shared for simulations in the show notes here.

And once again the most comprehensive list of simulations I’ve found, crowd sourced by the amazing #sschat crew with an 8 page list of simulation ideas and resources.

What simulations do you do in your class? What are your go to resources for simulation ideas?


One thought on “Increasing Engagement With Simulations (Part 2)

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