When I was in middle school, I had a U.S. history class that I can remember almost nothing about. The only thing I recall was that during a really exciting jeopardy game, the teacher asked me about a French word somehow connected to fur trappers during the colonization of North America, and I didn’t recall ever seeing it in the book. Honestly, that is the only thing I remember. Oh wait, I also remember that we took a lot of true and false quizzes.
When I became a teacher, I knew that I wanted my classes to be different.
Enter the political/economic country simulation called Civic Mirror. I first heard about Civic Mirror six years ago when a colleague tried it out. He said the kids were wildly excited about it and were learning like they had never learned before. I didn’t get a chance to use it until two years later, and I had similar results. This year I was able to introduce it in my sixth/seventh grade U.S. history class. I wonder why everyone doesn’t do it.
This is My Country
In the Civic Mirror, students become citizens of a new country that they set up and create for themselves. The simulated country runs through a website managed by Reagan Ross, the project’s creator. Once in the country (represented by a 36-hexagon map), students are able buy property, run businesses, participate in a government, develop resources and industries, and really anything else they can imagine.
The way I introduced students to the Civic Mirror this year was to put them through the normal colonization and revolution units that most U.S. history classes have, while letting them know that, in the same ways that the U.S. became a country, they would become a country within the class, and deal with many of the same problems that a real country would face.
To prepare for the simulation, students studied the Mayflower Compact and the Declaration of Independence, some of the foundational documents of our country. This continued with a look at the United States’ legal rulebook, the Constitution, which would be our rulebook as well. Then we chose a name, a national flower, different cultures and a national slogan. Although some of these are kind of weird in my opinion (Volcanoville, vampires, zombies, “Never back down from a fight”), to the kids they are relevant — they own these ideas.