As a 5th grade teacher, every year we did the explorers unit – you know, Cabot, Drake, Hudson, Magellan, etc. And then we’d hit the 13 Colonies. Sound familiar?
Here’s the question I didn’t even think to ask: What happened between the explorers and the 13 Colonies?
Why don’t we teach that? It’s not even hinted at in the books. Odd, right?
Now that, as I explained yesterday, a teacher in Michigan has drawn my attention to the really important events at the Straits of Mackinac between 1670-1760, I am planning a new game. This way teachers and students will have a fun and easy way to get the essential context they need to understand what was going on elsewhere in North America while the colonists were busy making rum and enjoying religious freedom. Otherwise we’re just missing the whole background to the French and Indian War and the events leading up to the American Revolution.
I’m in the planning process for my new game. I thought you might be curious to see what goes on behind the scenes, and I decided to document the journey for you. Today I’m sharing my big plan for what I hope to accomplish over the next few months, and why.
I like to tweak every new game, tailoring it to meet teacher and student needs. This game will have two brand-new elements, based on teacher and student feedback.
- Different story lines for different characters
High school students, while playing the Cuban Missile Crisis game, said it was fun and engaging, but they wished that different characters had different story lines. So this new game will have that feature – four different jobs, and each one has its own decisions, consequences, and experiences. You might even be able to shift tracks during the game – if you go bankrupt, for example, and have to go to work as a trapper.
2. Reading lessons that work with the game
Teachers have requested a book of short stories as a companion piece for the game, which they can use for reading instruction. More and more, teachers have to teach reading during social studies (or vice versa.) I am planning to write a book of short stories, in which each story features a different character with a unique perspective. Ideally, I’ll offer a mid-to-high reading level and a below-grade reading level version, so the whole class can read and discuss the same book together.
SO, putting that all together, here’s my plan:
- Begin research Monday, and continue at least until August, finding out about the lives of everyone involved in the fur trade – identifying people, details of daily life, decisions, consequences, and experiences. I’ll blog about resources as I read them, so you can follow along if you like.
- I have a call into the Nokomis Center near Lansing, Michigan. I am hoping to visit their museum about Ojibway and Odawa lives before and after Europeans came, and to interview one of their historians. (On camera if I can raise enough money for a videographer. To contribute, you can go here: https://www.gofundme.com/beths-time-travel-videos)
- For the game itself: there will be both male and female identities, and four job/storylines, where you can explore, adventure, make choices, and experience the consequences – company man, Native American, voyageurs, and trappers. As always, it will be full of detail, reflect accurate history, and include primary sources.
- For the book: this will be a collection of short stories, further exploring the people, places, and experiences from a variety of perspectives.
- Travel to Michigan in early August, to visit the Nokomis center and Colonial Michilimackinac to gather more information, take pictures, and possibly make a video.
- Eventually publish the online game and book.
It’s a lot to do, and I expect it to take many months to complete. Will I be able to do everything? Keep tuned to find out.
What have you tried lately that’s outside your comfort zone?