Seventh graders in Social Studies Teacher Todd Tash's World History class are traveling the Silk Road in virtual reality this week!
After learning about Marco Polo and his journey along the Silk Road, students are exploring five ancient trading cities along the famous route. Using a VR headset, students visited Venice, Tabriz, Samarkand, Kashgar, and Dadu (now known as Beijing). “This was such a realistic experience to be in a trading tent,” exclaimed Mack S. ’28. “I wasn’t expecting to see live horses and donkeys, and for them to be moving around,” added Nicholai B. ’28.
Following their experiences in VR, students were tasked with writing reflectively about what they saw and answering critical thinking questions. In addition, they used apps to build a map of old-world trade resources and construct geometric patterns seen along the Silk Road.
Next week, students will participate in an in-person trade fair, using paper cards representing trade items. This hands-on activity is a competition involving math before the age of currency, and teaches students how ancient countries used the barter system to “sell” what they made and “buy” what they needed.
These activities come from a program called “In the Footsteps of History*,” now in its second year as part of our Middle School curriculum. This immersive, interactive journey to the past follows renowned explorer Denis Belliveau's two-year overland journey as he follows the route of Marco Polo along the Silk Road. The program features Belliveau's Emmy-nominated PBS film, incredible VR scenes, 3D videos, a trading game, writing prompts, and other learning activities that help students understand the ancient world of Polo's time—all while having fun in their history class!
*Wynn Richards, beloved history, political science, and social justice educator at San Domenico for 20 years, is the Director of Curriculum for "In the Footsteps of History." We love having her back in the classrooms!