Why hello, Book Learners!
May is quickly coming to an end, and with it goes another school year. Which means we’d better cram in all the education we possibly can before summer vacation, right? Right.
EBYR recently launched the Trade Winds series, which introduces basic economic concepts by exploring particular historical events through fictional narratives. In a few short weeks we’ll be publishing Grandfather Whisker’s Table, which teaches students about banking through a kid-friendly story set in Italy during the time of the world’s first bank. We’ll be simultaneously releasing Lion, King, and Coin, which imagines how the first coins were invented in ancient Turkey and highlights the importance of currency.
But if you’re impatient for books and knowledge (we’re all a little Ravenclaw), here’s a Trade Winds book you can enjoy right now. It’s called Father’s Road, and it gives readers a glimpse into what it might have been like to travel the Silk Road trade route from China to the Middle East.
The super-informative-mega-awesome back matter (that I may or may not have spent a good amount of time finessing) gives further information about the Silk Road and explains the basics of global trade. This book has a lot of opportunities for practical classroom use, but what it doesn’t have are silly and fun classroom activities. So I shall proudly provide those now.
Silk Road: The Board Game
Create a board game template similar to Candyland, ideally with paths that diverge and reconnect. Give a copy to each of your students, and have them label five spaces, including the Start Space and End Space, with the names of cities that were part of the Silk Road. They can start and finish from any point along the Silk Road, as long as it makes sense geographically.
Then have them fill out the remaining spaces; they don’t need to all be filled in, but there should be at least four positive squares and four negative squares evenly distributed along the path.
- Desert Oasis. Move double the roll on your next turn.
- Bandits! Return to start for more supplies.
- Caught in a sandstorm. Lose a turn.
- Energetic camel. Move ahead three spaces.
Once everyone has their game board filled out, roll a die and have each student follow the instructions on their game boards. The first one to reach their destination wins!
Silk Road Trading Post
Create six stations in the classroom and designate each of them a particular region: China, India, Central Asia, Eastern Europe, Rome, and Western Europe. Give each region one particular good to trade—Father’s Road has a list of the items each region produced. You can represent the goods with pieces of paper or candy. (I will always recommend the option that comes with food.) Make sure there’s an uneven number of goods: spices (Rome) and rice (China) should be more plentiful than silver and gold (Central Asia).
Then divide the students up among the six regions and let them trade! They can only trade with the regions directly next to them, and each trade session lasts only a minute or two. After 4-6 trade sessions, the group that has the most diverse collection of goods wins!
Pro tip: After the exercise, ask students what challenges they faced during the game. Explore how the economic concepts of supply and demand came into play.