Your Source for Interactive and engaging Social Studies Games & Activities
15242 110th St.
Alden, IA 50006
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My Teaching Story
When I graduated from high school and started at Ellsworth Community College, I first thought about becoming a PE teacher. After taking a couple history classes for general education, I became fascinated with why history happened the way it did.
When I transferred to The University of Northern Iowa, I started working toward a Major in History Teaching Education. I also minored in Political Science and Athletic Coaching.
Before graduating from the University of Northern Iowa in 1992, I did my student teaching as a Social Studies Teacher in Forest City, Iowa- under History teacher Bob Hilmer. Bob introduced me to a simple simulation on how World War 1 got started. There were six fictitious countries that represented the major powers at the start of World War I: Penland: Germany, Sandia: Russia, Caldonia: Great Britain, Yorkton: France, Bakan: Serbia, Morovia: Austria-Hungary. A crisis develops between Bakan and Penland which leads to students negotiating and either declaring war or making peace.
I was so impressed by the engagement this activity created. I felt students were experiencing history rather than just memorizing facts and dates. This completely changed how I wanted to teach history.
After I graduated, I found the market for Social Studies teachers was saturated. Hundreds of applications for each position made it very difficult to find a job. My first year, I substitute taught in 6 or 7 local school districts including my high school: Alden Community. To be honest, I wanted more than anything to teach and coach in my hometown.
My first contract was a ¼ time position, teaching History and assistant varsity football. The next year I was ½ time, then ¾ time the third year and by year 4, I was finally a full time teacher. At one point, I was Head Varsity: Football, Wrestling and Track & Field.
I started implementing that simulation in my own classroom. After a while, we started adding armies, conducting battles, which lead to students developing strategies. The question then became: Why not use all the real countries, using maps that include: seas, oceans, armies and navies. To keep this a legitimate simulation, I added objectives for each country: The Top Secret Documents.
In the early days, everything was built on Word documents I had created, including the map. I found that students knew every country, sea and ocean’s location, because of studying their maps and developing their strategy.
When students were seen running down the hall to get to class first to declare war, talking non-stop about it in other classes and sitting together at lunch based on their alliances- I knew something special was happening. Kids were complaining that the class period is going by too fast!
As the teacher, I was busy non-stop: calculating battles on the spreadsheet, talking with leaders and foreign ministers, it was exhausting, but I loved how engaged the students were.
I was encouraged by my principal to share what I was doing with other teachers and that’s when I started HistorySimulation.com.
The next step was creating online platforms for these simulations. A friend of mine, with a lot of connections in the programming world, said that these programers often take side projects to increase their income. I found one and later another who really believed in what I was doing and that was a game changer! Now instead of entering tons of numbers into a spreadsheet, you just drag and click and the battle is over! This allows more time to watch what is going on and really enjoy seeing the interaction of students through Diplomacy and Negotiating.
These simulations directly affect student's interest in the topics focused on in simulations like: Imperialism, Civil War, WWI, WWII and The Cold War. Students are excited to learn about these topics and compare their own actions with the leaders actions during the war and what the motivations for those actions were.
Creator of HistorySimulation.com
Owner of Harms LLC
History Teacher & Coach 26 Years