When I learned history in school, my teachers taught it in such a way that watching paint dry was more exciting. For Engineering, we had one subject – The History of Science and Technology – which was so boring that students often locked the classroom and went for matinees.
Chris Heard, Associate Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University, recently found a technique to make history classes interesting.
This course, called “Reacting to the Past,” involves students in complex live-action role-playing games to help them experience dramatic historical moments. Now, students don’t have to stat out characters or dress up (though I suppose they are allowed to dress up) or anything like that; basically, they spend a lot of time making speeches and politicking with each other. For example, one game casts students as Parisians during the French Revolution; another game I played in a conference at the University of Kansas cast us in the roles of Athenians debating democracy and other topics right around the time of Socrates’s trial and death. I got so excited about this pedagogical method—which is not all fun and games, but requires a lot of reading and writing as well as public speaking from students—and resolved to employ it as a pilot project in my Religion 101 class this fall.[Convergence of geekdoms: Reacting to the Biblical Past]