Social studies teachers engage classes with dynamic simulations

November 30, 2016 — by Andrew Owens and Rahul Vadlakonda

Social Studies classes make presentations and projects more interesting through the use of costumes. 

Halloween is long gone, but students are still wearing costumes. In history teacher Kim Anzalone’s AP U.S. History class, some students sport tights and tri-point hats, while others donn conservative dresses in the style of New England Puritans.

These students are all participating in Anzalone’s “Puritan simulation,” a simulation that transports the classroom into colonial America.

With simulations prominent in the the social studies curriculum, students often enjoy pretending to be part of history rather than just hearing or reading about it.

Junior Scott Moriarty, who is in Anzalone’s AP US History class, recalls a past “Reformer Simulation” in which he played Welsh social reformer Robert Owen, an advocate for utopian socialism who lived from the late 18th to mid 19th centuries. Moriarty said that he far prefers simulations to lectures.

“You are forced to research whatever you are supposed to be talking about in the simulation, so it helps you learn in more depth than what you would learn [in a lecture],” he said.

In teacher Hana Chen’s AP Government and Economics class, students participated in a simulation that exemplified the way that prices are set. Each student was given a card that indicated their role: buyer or seller.

Buyers attempted to buy items below the price set on their own card., while sellers tried to sell above the price set on their card. If individuals failed to meet their price goals, they would lose money. Through this simulation, students could learn how the nation’s job market functions.

“The simulation was active because instead of sitting back and taking notes, I was able to engage in a discussion and in the process of what would happen on a trade floor,” senior Dhruva Setlur said.

History teacher Jerry Sheehy only sees the positives in simulations. He not only thinks the present generation learns best with active participation rather than passive participation, but  also values simulations for their entertainment value.

“A simulation is one of the best ways to grab students’ attention,” he said.

In the Press Conference simulation in Sheehy’s World History class, students were each assigned to a philosopher and argued why their philosopher’s view of an ideal government was better than others’ beliefs. Sophomore Manit Sripadam, who played the Greek philosopher Socrates, thought the simulation was fun and interactive.

“It was an interesting experience simulating a historic philosopher because you had to think about the questions and how to react to them,” he said.

Although Sripadam said simulations have their benefits, he said he is glad they’re not the only way of learning.

“I find it more entertaining than the actual lecture, but you also receive less information,” he said.

Though simulations seem to be a part of a wave of non-traditional learning methods, they help students learn by giving them a different perspective on the curriculum content.

“They force you to learn the information more in depth, so you can answer questions that you cannot plan for,” Moriarty said.

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