As part of their year-long Middle Years Programme (MYP) theme on globalization, students in eighth-grade study and research critical periods and historical events that have shaped today's world from a global perspective.
When students recently kicked off their MYP unit on the Age of Imperialism, they were organized in small groups and told that they were an imperial nation but would not know which nation they were until the end of the activity.
"The end goal was to claim the most important things in the classroom for their country," Middle School Individuals and Societies teach Dwight Spain shared.
Different groups had specific tasks they had to complete before they could begin claiming possessions. Some had long lists of things to do, such as writing a national anthem, designing a map, and developing a constitution. The longer lists represented newer, less industrial nations with unstable governments that had more work to do at home before conquering foreign lands.
Students claimed things such as the classroom computer, the projection screen, light switches, thermostat, the door – even Mr. Spain's iPhone.
"The idea was for the students to understand why imperial/industrial nations wanted to control certain parts of the world, and how controlling those parts made the nations wealthier and more powerful," Spain said.
In the end, the Middle School classroom was decked out in Post-It notes representing make-believe nations' flags. Students went on to explain "why" their group claimed specific items.
The students ended up with creative explanations as to why controlling certain things in the classroom gave them power and possible wealth over others. When they realized that some had more tasks to perform before claiming territory, like the United States, which had just come out of the Civil War, they had a lightbulb moment as to why the stronger nations always seemed to control the most valued territories.
"This activity is a great example of taking real-life settings, in this case the classroom that the students are in every day, and turning it into a history lesson that they can connect with and understand," Spain said. "Plus, it was fun!"