Reacting in High Schools
Reacting to the Past has been used by high school instructors to bring the benefits of reacting to younger students. Here are some resources to help high school instructors to get started!
Resources for High School Instructors and Students
More resources (Instructor Manuals, Game-Specific Guides) to help adapt Reacting games to a High School setting.
High School specific conferences (coming Fall 2023)
Recommended Games for High School Classes
Modernism Vs. Traditionalism: Art in Paris, 1888-1889
Considers questions surrounding artistic developments at the end of the nineteenth century in Paris. Students will debate principles of artistic design in the context of the revolutionary changes that began shaking the French art world in 1888-1889.
Content Warning: Potentially controversial art
6-7 Sessions 11-27+ Students 19th Century Europe Published Game
The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 B.C.E.
In the wake of Athenian military defeat and rebellion, advocates of democracy have reopened the Assembly; but stability remains elusive. As members of the Assembly, players must contend with divisive issues like citizenship, elections, remilitarization, and dissent.
Caution: The content explored in this game: democracy, citizenship, memory and reconciliation, and free speech - are complex, as are the primary sources of Plato, Thucydides, and Plutarch. However, there are a range of modifications that a high school instructor could implement, such as directing students to specific primary source passages, providing summaries, limiting some players to simply referencing their role sheets. There is one role and some content that some might consider sensitive: the “metic” or foreigner, citizenship for slaves and foreigners, and reconciling after violence.
Content Warning: Pig sacrifice, enslavement
7-15 Sessions 11-50 Students 5th Century BCE Europe Published Game
Climate Change in Copenhagen, 2009
Covers the negotiations at the Conference of Parties 15 meeting that was attended by a large number of national leaders. Also includes representatives of non-government organizations and the press. This game was written as part of the National Science Foundation grant. Several high school teachers took great interest in and partially shaped how this game was written. This game is perfectly suited for a high school classroom.
4-6 Sessions 12-31 Students 21st Century Europe International Published Game (STEM)
Confucianism and the Succession Crisis of the Wanli Emperor, 1587
The Wanli emperor has refused to designate his first-born son as his successor, creating a moral crisis. From within the walls of the Forbidden City scholars struggle to apply Confucian precepts to a dynasty in peril. Now, the Grand Secretariat of the Hanlin Academy must decide whether the emperor still has moral authority.
In addition to the Gamebook and Instructor’s Manual (IM), there are numerous resources on the Reacting Library to help instructors run the game. I believe the game is appropriate for advanced high school history classes. Instructors who are not familiar with Chinese history may feel reluctant to run the game but reading the Ray Huang book will help immensely.
8-9 Sessions 12-21+ Students 16th Century Asia Published Game
The Constitutional Convention of 1787: Constructing the American Republic
Brings to life the debates that most profoundly shaped American government. As representatives to the convention, students must investigate the ideological arguments behind possible structures for a new government and create a new constitution. This game can pair well with a variety of American government and history classes.
Caution: While the extended and full versions would probably be too complex and time consuming for most secondary classrooms, the basic game teaches a specific event in American government thoroughly without being too unwieldy or difficult for secondary students to grasp. There are some personal behaviors given to some of the delegates that add to the flavor and fun of the game. These behaviors include a duel between two of the delegates, loans being made to indigent delegates, and reference to one delegate who is hit with a paternity suit in the game. In the extended and full versions of the game, one of the delegates also has a snuff addiction that they are to pretend to have during debate. All these character traits could be easily eliminated without harm to the integrity or the learning to be gained by its use in a secondary classroom.
8-15 Sessions 12-40 Students 18th Century North America Published Game
Constantine and the Council of Nicaea: Defining Orthodoxy and Heresy in Christianity, 325 C.E.
Plunges students into the theological debates confronting early Christian church leaders. Emperor Constantine has sanctioned Christianity as a legitimate religion within the Roman Empire but discovers that Christians do not agree on fundamental aspects of their beliefs.
The Constantine game would work well in the proper high school setting where course goals include understanding theological debates, how religious canonical texts were developed, or specifically the history of early Christianity. The game centers on students developing their own version of the Nicaean Creed and engaging in debates about Christian theologies (some of which have historically been considered heretical in certain branches).
Caution: In a school and class where critical reading of Christian texts is permissible, I think it would work well in a World Religions elective course or any course looking for an in- depth exercise on these topics. The adaptability of the game from 10 sessions down to as few as 2 sessions makes it especially attractive for high school curriculum with shorter class periods and typically more content to cover.
7-10 Sessions 7-40+ Students 4th Century BCE SW Asia Europe Published Game
Building the Italian Renaissance: Brunelleschi's Dome and the Florence Cathedral
Focuses on the competition to select a team to execute the final architectural challenge of the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore--the erection of its dome. The competition at the heart of this game plays out against the background of new ideas about citizenship, aesthetics, history, and new technology.
This game also allows for more artistic expression (through the creation of the palios, the offerings and the architectural models). There is also a space for understanding math (esp. geometry) and art history. The game is intensely collaborative and, because students work with two groups (guild and factions), cooperation is at the forefront. If time allows, additional scaffolding for art history, math, architecture, etc. will enhance learning.
4-5 Sessions 12-40 Student s 15th Century Europe Published Game
Europe on the Brink, 1914: The July Crisis
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 by a Serbian nationalist has set off a crisis in Europe. Representatives of European powers must navigate the fragile balance of power and interlocking alliances that defined the July Crisis.
8 Sessions 12-30 Students 20th Century Europe Published Game
Rousseau, Burke, and Revolution in France, 1791
Plunges students into the intellectual and political currents that surged through revolutionary Paris in the summer of 1791. Members of the National Assembly gather to craft a constitution for a new France while wrestling with the threat of foreign invasion, power struggles, liberty, and citizenship.
This RTTP game would be an excellent addition into any global history, European history, or civics and government class. This game would work in most high school settings if given the appropriate time to set up and complete the game. To reduce some obstacles to completing this game, instructors should focus on certain topics for the National Assembly, consider giving a reduced version of the Rousseau primary sources, and spend some time with their students on how to write and speak effectively.
8-14 Sessions 7-41 Students 18th Century Europe Published Game
Greenwich Village, 1913: Suffrage, Labor, and the New Woman
Immerses students in the radical possibilities unlocked by the modern age. Exposed to ideas like women's suffrage, socialism, birth control, and anarchism, students experiment with forms of political participation and bohemian self-discovery.
A great game for an American history or American literature course for high schoolers. It would be most appropriate for more mature students who may have Reacted before. The game author, Mary Jane Treacy does an excellent job in the instructor’s manual of setting up each session with guided practices for students to read through primary sources. Each activity is student-centered and is helpfully labeled for content and what activity is to be completed by the students. Many of the materials for this scenario are clear enough and appropriately gauged so that they may very easily be adapted to a high school classroom. Any change to be made should come out of how the instructor wishes to pace the game, making cuts to sessions or abridging the scenario as they see fit.
Content warning: Birth control, anarchy, free love
8-9 Sessions 15-35 Students 20th Century North America Published Game
Paterson, 1913: A Labor Strike in the Progressive Era
New technologies are changing the nation's silk industry, workers are losing ground, labor organizations are offering solutions from reformist to radical. A city's economy hangs in the balance: what will happen? Can you save Paterson and its people?
This game was written specifically with high school students in mind. The reading load is targeted for HS students. The mechanics and roles are accessible, and the length lends itself to more of a survey course. The instructor is given a role as standard practice, which means they have more oversight in the game experience and can more readily impact the trajectory of the game if things go off-course. There are some components that may gain more attention than intended in a high school classroom: specifically, the function of money.
Caution: There are some mechanisms that implicate violence, even if not specifically perpetuated by a character. The instructor should think through how to handle those aspects.
3-5 Sessions 11-35 Students 20th Century North America Flashpoints
Changing the Game: Title IX, Gender, and College Athletics
A debate over the role of athletics quickly expands to encompass demands that women’s sports and athletes receive more resources and opportunities. The result is a firestorm of controversy on and off campus. Students wrestle with questions of gender parity and the place of athletics in higher education.
This game takes place at a university and is focused both on issues of equity and justice but also the inner-workings on a university. On that second question, HS students may have trouble finding their footing. That said, since we see so many HS students involved in athletics, The game should resonate deeply for many of them and would generally play well in an HS setting. There are select roles that should be carefully assigned to more mature students. The game is easily adaptable in scope to help deal with some of the concerns over time constraints.
7-10 Sessions 10-40+ Students 20th Century North America Published Game