Learning About The Past, Using Interactive Methods in 4th Grade

In Fourth Grade, our students are learning history, debate, economics, agriculture, English, game theory, and problem-solving skills in a unique way: by simulating being the governing body attempting to dominate a fertile, vital region in 3000 BC. Welcome to Mesopotamia. Where anything goes and survival is the endgame. 
Led by Fourth Grade Teachers Sarah Luposello and Lorenzo Bellard, for the past five weeks, our boys have been learning about the ancient struggles in which many civilizations have participated, in hopes of ruling the western region known as Mesopotamia. The longitudinal project started with an in-depth history lesson, explaining the historical struggles, sacrifices, and consequences many civilizations experienced when trying to claim the region as their own.  
 
Boys were then broken up into groups of four, where they simulated being different empires inside the Mesopotamian region, having to make choices for the betterment of their civilization. During each class, boys moved their civilization pieces on a map, with the number of moves corresponding to the number of resources they gathered. While conquering other nations, boys also had to gather resources and protect their city center from being taken. Each class would also focus on a different historical attribute of Mesopotamia and boys would learn a little more each session about the civilization they were representing. As such, the project combined history, game theory, debate, logical reasoning, decision-making, compromise, math, science, and economics, all into one high-stakes game of survival.
 
“Boys are active learners,” says Sarah Luposello. “And not everyone learns in the same way. By turning history into an experience, which also incorporates teaching about teamwork, science, logic, consequences of one's actions, ethics, and so much more, the boys learn more than by me lecturing to them. Sometimes the boys even discover things on their own I didn’t plan for them to learn, simply because they take ownership of the activity and explore things that interest them. There are a lot of ‘what ifs’ and exploratory questions in my classroom during this activity.”
 
The simulation encouraged boys to draw upon multiple intelligences, a theory that suggests all students learn differently. In that vein, boys were required to build replicas of warehouses and ziggurats using available classroom materials. This type of learning also draws upon elements of our STEAM program. The fourth grade team argues that cross-curricular connections help embed deeper learning. 
 
“Part of the project also focused on teambuilding and education extending outside of our guided inquiry,” said Lorenzo Bellard. “Boys took the initiative to do their own research, and even to go one step further. They asked thoughtful questions, often to each other, and went above-and-beyond the lesson, pulling in other ideas and concepts on their own. That’s the best part of teaching, when the students start to teach themselves.”
 
One thing is for certain after seeing the boys work together in groups, they absolutely loved this project: between commanding armies, researching information, forming treaties and learning about historical cultures, this project encapsulates everything Allen-Stevenson represents: many ways to learn, many ways to play, and many way to be a boy.
 
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Allen-Stevenson’s distinctive “enlightened traditional” approach educates boys to become scholars and gentlemen.