Board Games and Education #6 Making History Tangible

Board games have the ability to add story and experience to stories written by history. Playing a board game based in history can bring the experience of historical characters to the minds of students.

I remember reading about hisotry, taking tests and promtly forgetting what we were doing. Over time, I have supplemented what I learned in school with TV, movies, books etc. But what I was supplementing was what held my personal interest.

Lets us the example of Paul Revere’s ride to warn of the coming British Regulars. What if there was game that gave students a map of Boston and they had to make the ride themselves. If they took the wrong turn, they would be captured but would have the opportunity to escape. What if the students ask “If Paul Revere was captured, how would the message have been delivered?” This is a great opportunity to mention that another rider, William Dawes, was given the same task. Now, the students are grouped together and half are told to make the ride to tell the militia the Redcoats were coming, and the other half were trying to capture the riders.

The stories of near missed and last moment captures will be numerous. Students will remember the turns they took and the turns they didn’t take that would have led to their own capture. Because Boston is a real place, if the students ever go there, they can see a building a associate it with the turns they took on their own Paul Revere ride.

Even if, years later, they forget most of the lesson, should the idea of Paul Revere’s ride ever come up, they will remember their own ride. They will have a laugh and if they tell their own children about the ride they took through Boston. Their child might even say, “That sounds like fun.”

Board Games are a vehicle that can add a story to a subject where the gravity and meaning of the real historical moment is lost when described in a class setting. We all know that the winter in Valley Forge was awful for Washington’s army, but few of us relate to the torment. Few people know what a desperate ride on horseback feels like, but we can give students the experience better with the use of a board game.

If you have any ideas on how games can make great educational tools, please share them in the comments section or email us at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

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