by Andrew Ragan, Middle School History Teacher
Seventh Graders recently tackled the “Game of Empire” to immerse themselves in the economics of Colonial America. Imitating Europe’s mercantile system of the 18th century, teams of students representing the Southern Planters, New England Merchants, European Merchants, Colonial Farmers, and British West Indian Planters competed to gain the largest percentage of goods they needed to prosper. Students checked their inventories, bargained with traders from other groups, procured shipping, and sailed loaded ships across the sea to deliver their goods.
Ship journeys were not always successful, however: storms sank ships, pirates seized cargo, and the British Navy stopped many vessels to check whether goods were being smuggled. Apparently, the Navy was open to bribery, as it ended the game with an inexplicably large amount of hard cash. Some teams made a killing when they realized that they held monopolies on certain goods that other teams had to have. Students raced around the room in great bursts of energy during four trading rounds, each begun and ended with a “royal flourish” from a tuba and trumpet player.
After the last round, each team tabulated its purchases and sales and calculated what percentage of goods they had acquired. All the seventh graders “won” in the end by learning just how complicated the mercantile trading system was in the Colonial Age and how much fun it is to simulate that in the “Game of Empire.”
Andrew RaganAndrew came to teach Middle School History at Allendale Columbia School after 20 years in educational publishing and living in Pittsburgh, New York City, Los Angeles, Toronto, and the Adirondacks. He began writing for young people at Junior Scholastic magazine and has since published hundreds of articles in such magazines as JS, Scholastic News, Disney Adventures, Creative Classroom, and more. After teaching freshman composition at the University of Southern California for several years, Andrew served as the Senior Editor for Disney Adventures Magazine. He earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and Communications, with honors, from Carnegie Mellon University and his master's degree in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.
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