It's too easy to point out Confucius' saying that ends with "I do and I understand". But it's also true! Learners must be highly involved in experiential teaching strategies to be successful 21st century citizens.

Oh I promise that I will give you more reasons TO use simulations and experiential experience than not to use them, let’s continue get the yes-buts out of the way.
The next two were:
  • Some things just are not worthy of or do not lend themselves to simulation and role play strategies
  • In order for an experiential strategy to be worthy for a content area or skills domain the teacher must carefully reduce the area’s content of skill to a simple but comprehensive model.

Some things just are not worthy of or do not lend themselves to simulation and role play strategies. How could a social studies teacher simulate The Rape of the Sabine women? I apologize for the distasteful example. I took the example from a movie I have long forgotten. Yet the caution flag is valid. Simply put, there are some situations, experiences, events, ideas that are meant for instruction but are not meant for simulation. I’ll give you some unpleasant examples.

– the Holocaust, in my opinion, and in my experience is simply too intense a topic to “simulate”. One year, I tried to simulate the sequences in A Diary of Anne Frank with the intention of having eighth graders identify guilt or innocence of those who may have turned the Franks over to the Gestapo. In almost all instances the class decided that those who contributed even indirectly to their deaths were NOT guilty. I never did the lesson again and that is because of the next cautionary below.

In order for an experiential strategy to be worthy for a content area or skills domain the teacher must carefully reduce the area’s content of skill to a simple but comprehensive model. Some situations, events, ideas, are simply too complex to simplify, or too inflammatory to replicate under the constraints of teaching time, student maturity, and the teachers’ ability to work with the sometimes unexpected dynamics of simulation’s momentum.

A teacher who I respected very much once tried to simulate a U. N. session of the Security Council about the Arab – Israeli conflict. She spent hours upon hours identifying specific historical roles and events, including very minor “players” in the continuing conflict.

I warned her that she had to tried to capture too many elements and that she would lose the students. She insisted that the lesson had to be historically authentic. I was right.

Afterwards she told me that she would never try something like this again. I replied that she shouldn’t, that she could have captured all of the essential elements by removing them from the historical context, setting in motion a far simpler exercise, and THEN using the simulation to provide structure to an actual review of the actual historical contexts.

Subsequent posts will show the reader how to do this.

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