Shays’s rebellion & the march on springfield arsenal simulation

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[created and adapted by Richard Colton, Historian, Springfield Armory NHS, 3/27/07 mini lesson on conflict situations]


Appropriate for grade 5 through Middle School.

OVERVIEW: This game has been successful in introducing conflict situations or comparative systems. It is presented here to help learners understand the 1787 storming of Springfield Arsenal, Springfield, Massachusetts, by armed rebels during what has come to be known as Shays’s Rebellion. The attack was repulsed with the loss of four rebels killed and many wounded. Fear of similar rebellions led directly to the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.
This simulation provides non-threatening though possibly emotionally charged interaction by individuals and teams [the kind of experience only a simulation can give]. By using the simulation, the students will experience key concepts and terms, such as authority, value, laws, fairness and conflict. With adaptations, the game can be used for different subjects, different age levels and/or different objectives.

PURPOSE: Knowledge is internalized and gained through reflection on experience. Throughout the year the experience of the simulation can be used as a reference point, such as "Do you remember how you felt when....?" The debriefing session is the KEY. Players communicate and explore who did what, who did it, when, and why. Anticipation of potential aggressive or inappropriate behavior can be easily dispelled.

OBJECTIVES: Students will be able to:

  1. Analyze their own behavior in a group in terms of cooperation and communication.

  2. Compare interactions among groups and then relate to other social groups.

  3. Discuss ways to resolve conflicts, establish control/authority to meet needs.

ACTIVITIES: Count the number of students and distribute to each the number of tokens [candy wafers, pennies?] that each student is in that count. For instance, 24 students would mean that the first student got one token, the next got two, and the next person got three, and so forth until the last got twenty-four. To those students receiving fewer tokens, that is, the lower half of the class, distribute a single piece of paper Continental Dollars [Monopoly money will do] in random order of face value regardless of how many silver Dollars [tokens] these students have [“the luck of the draw” – life in 1787 wasn’t always fair!]. Explain to the students that each token is a make-believe silver Dollar and that it may buy a minimum of ten Dollars in paper Continental Dollars.

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