“We’re in the process of finding a new
social studies curriculum that will be
more international in its focus,” writes
the principal of our school. “So, I’d like
to invite you to try some things out.”
Sixteen lively 7th graders, English-speaking volunteer teacher,
bi-lingual school, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia:
make your own curriculum
So, how about this?
“You are explorers from another planet.
You are being dropped off by the Mother Ship
in teams of two on eight different land masses
of this magnificent, colorful planet.
We will be back to pick you up
and hear your reports on your discoveries
in 5 months. Be ready.”
From here we spent 20 weeks, 2 hours per week
and 1 hour per week of homework
exploring and learning
We spent the first hour
learning about a theme
and then the second hour of each week
playing an evolving board game.
It began with learning about exports and imports
and trading in a global market.
After a few minutes of trading,
I would introduce a new situation:
like “Australia has had a terrible wild fire
and has lost half it’s exports.
What do you want to do about that?”
Or “There’s a shortage of textiles,
what will we do about the price?”
For this game we also studied
geography, weather, housing,
global trade routes, and
That was game number 1.
“Ibu Cedar, are we playing the game today?”
The second game was an around-the-world
board game similar to monopoly connecting
all the countries via a world map
When you landed on a space,
you picked a card with instructions.
The students created the cards that went
with the new topic of the week.
“Ibu Cedar, Segah spoke Bahasa.”
(Segah had to move back five spaces, and this rule
helped the students speak English
more fluently and spontaneously.)
The POWER CARDS said things like:
“Your country has broken an agreement.
Move backwards 15 steps.”
We studied about the current global groups
like the UN, NATO, ASEAN… and their purposes.
The GOOD NEIGHBOR cards were used
to save any other player from a “bad” card.
Another week we studied myths
from each country.
The LESSON cards were positive if you threw an even die
and negative if you threw an uneven die.
“You learned not to be greedy.
Take an extra turn.”
Other themes were:
CHANGE–the students interviewed their grandparents
about their lives. They found that many of them
didn’t go to school, cooked on a wood fire, and
traveled only by a small boat on the river.
We studied the CHARACTERISTICS OF HAPPY, THRIVING COUNTRIES
and made posters about these
for the presentations for the Mother Ship.
The Mother Ship did land right on schedule
and the students gave their reports
to the five esteemed commanders
just in time to be beamed up to the 8th grade.