IN THE CLASSROOM: AP World History Simulates the Great Silk Road

In Chris Curtis’ AP World History class, students are given the opportunity to experience first hand the benefits and downsides that came with trading on the Great Silk Road. One of the goals of the simulation is to give students a deep understanding of the impact of trade and the interconnectedness of the Classical and Post-Classical World. Students are given an area of the world (the Spice Islands, for example) and are provided with a list of goods and commodities that their civilization used for trade. Students are also provided with a list of things, like horses, that their society needs to remain viable. They are then sent out to the Great Silk Road to trade and barter with their classmates. There is palpable excitement and a buzz in the air as students feverishly barter back and forth in an effort to acquire the goods that they need for their civilization. 

Another goal of the simulation is to help students understand how cultural diffusion played a role in the growth and demise of civilizations. As students trade, they are asked to share their religions with the other civilizations to help them understand how Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and other religions were spread through trade routes. Students also learn how the Great Silk Road fostered the spreading of the plague as groups are required to “share” diseases when they trade with another civilization. The two-day simulation is a highlight for many of the students; Mr. Curtis often has upperclassmen ask if they can come back and participate so that they can help with the simulation. While students in Mr. Curtis’s class “play the game of learning”, they gain a deep understanding of how the Great Silk Road impacted the development of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.