News & Views

Sixth Graders Role-Play Explorers, Navigate Trade Routes Game

Working in small teams, New Canaan Country School sixth grade social studies students navigated their way around campus to points labelled Spain, England, Portugal, France, England and the Netherlands as participants of a “Trade Routes” game, June 6. The culminating experience follows their year-long study of major explorers who journeyed to expand Western ideals, following trade routes that originated during the Renaissance time-period.
“We’re on Team Spain, so we’re trying to make our way up to England which is on the other side of the Upper School building,” explained Eric Behr, gesturing to classmates James Moody and  Bennett Kurtz.

The goal of the game is for each team to get to the other countries, following a designated trade route to collect a cache of precious gemstones, treasure, spices or silks - depending upon the destination. The challenge is that the Middle School’s faculty and staff reenact the roles of robbers, merchants, toll collectors, bureaucrats, farmers and other would-be obstacles to their journey. The students are fortified with a few copper pennies, to use as tolls or bribes, but they quickly run out, necessitating bartering and other negotiations. A physical education teacher for example, may request five jumping jacks to let them cross her field or a music teacher may request that the group sing a song before moving on. Students are also encouraged to rely upon their unique strengths and passions to proactively lead the negotiation. They might offer to recite memorized poetry, arm wrestle, or tell a joke, in the hope of winning favor and permission to continue.

“It’s definitely high energy,” said Grade 6 Teacher Fraser Randolph, who has taught at the school for 32 years and acted as master of ceremonies for this year’s Trade Routes game. “What’s interesting about this experience is students learn that many of today’s modern issues have roots in the Renaissance world and that many of the skills one needed then are still necessary today such as collaboration, cultural literacy, problem-solving, persistence, curiosity, the ability to make a persuasive argument and to negotiate goods and services.”
New Canaan Country School admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin and are afforded all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, age, sex, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry, or disability in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, financial aid policies or any other school-administered programs.