When I think back to my high school years, only a few learning experiences really stand out. One of them happened the summer before freshman year when I took World History.

Most of the time, we spent our long summer days in World History taking notes upon notes upon notes. (I couldn’t tell you anything that was in those notebooks now.) But at the end of the summer term, our teacher, Mr. Knowles, staged a Model UN-style simulation.

My friend, Donna, and I were assigned Saudi Arabia. We had a few class hours to research the nation, determine which issues were important to them, figure out their allies and enemies, and develop resolutions. This was 1981, so we were thrilled to have so much oil!

I don’t know what we proposed in those resolutions, but I clearly remember threatening other nations’ oil supplies. I also remember negotiating, collaborating, communicating, voting — and actually DOING something for a few hours. We loved it.

After that, I thought high school was going to be amazing, but it turned out that experience was all too rare.

Simulations — whether they are brief or extended, silly or serious — are a powerful tool for teachers. We can help our students experience political negotiations, learned helplessness, life in a command economy, hearing loss, neural transmission, Supreme Court deliberations and so much more. And we can create learning experiences that endure for 35+ years.

But we don’t use this tool nearly often enough. We worry that simulations take too much time or planning. We worry about giving up classroom control. We worry that it won’t “work,” especially if we’ve never participated in a simulation. And we worry about assessing students’ learning.  

In Chapter 6 of Beat Boredom: Engaging Tuned-Out Teenagers, I address all of these barriers and explain how we can use simulations in every high school class to deeply engage students in learning and improve student performance.

The biggest surprise, perhaps, is that an engaging simulation solves more classroom management problems than it creates. Students want to be part of something active, meaningful and fun — and studies have found that absences, tardies and behavior referrals decrease when teachers implement this style of lesson.

This new video, the fourth in a series of six Beat Boredom videos, provides a quick look at how I use simulation in my economics classroom.

Want to learn more about using simulation effectively in the classroom? Order a copy of Beat Boredom on Amazon, or fill in the contact request form on neverbore.org.