Sparking Student Motivation: Black Death Plague Simulation

My teammate and I found a fantastic way to keep our students motivated during our half day before Spring Break:  a PLAGUE SIMULATION!
We just finished studying the Middle Ages, and we knew that this would be an incredible lab experience for our students.  I try to make my classes as interactive as possible.  I only have my students for a 42 minute period, and I don't want them to be bored while they are with me.  Usually we use our interactive notebook for social studies lessons, but I always try to add in some sort of extended project with each unit.  I was so excited to actually find a simulation that would get my students up and moving during class!

I found the idea for our Black Death Simulation {HERE}.   I didn't create this simulation, it was made for S.C.O.R.E. Science.  (Schools-Online-Resources for Educators).  It is really simple to create.  Maps, Trade and Pilgrimage Routes, Directions etc.  are all included.  FOR FREE!!!  You just simply buy white, red and pinto beans, dice, and bags.  You could also use bingo chips if you have a bunch of them in the same color.  You need space for 25 city stations so I grabbed mouse pads from a few friends classroom to keep the dice noise down to a minimum.  That 's a great trick BTW if you don't have containers, and students are working in groups with dice.  Rolling on a mouse pad eliminates flying LOUD dice.

Students are assigned a pilgrimage or trade route.  They "travel" to each city on the list and roll a die.  The number represents the number of nights you spend in that city.  You pull that same number of beans out of the bag.  If you grab a red or pinto bean you have contracted the plague or cholera.  You then travel to next two cities infected those bags with the plague or cholera before you die.  As a culmination, students write a post card home explaining their trade route, and when and where they contracted the plague.  They also label a class map of where they were infected and where they died.  Then we have an opportunity to analyze the data.  Hello!  Math and Social Studies!!!

My students HAD A BLAST trying to escape the plague as they traveled from city to city.  Take a look at a few of our pictures below.  Our principal even joined in.  Unfortunately, he contracted the plague, but he managed to spread it to a few more cities before dying!

Stop over at visit Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching to find out about a ton of ways teachers are motivating their students! Spring Break here I come!


  1. Yay for spring break for you!! Simulations are the BEST! I still remember my 5th grade teacher doing them all the time. You're creating great experiences that they'll remember for your students! How great that your principal participated-I bet your students loved that he got the plague! LOL! Thanks for the tip about the mouse pads-never heard of that! Thanks for linking up and sharing Michele!
    Head Over Heels For Teaching

  2. My daughter was at a sleepover last night and one of the girls came down with the flu...I'm hoping she can avoid THAT plague! What a fun experience your simulation was for your kiddos. Have a great spring break!!

    Mrs. Laffin's Laughings

  3. What a great idea!! Have a great spring break

  4. Woohoo Spring Break! This simulation sounds awesome! I need to get into more simulations with my kids. I think they would enjoy that!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  5. Hope you are enjoying your break! We are back today and getting ready for testing this week! What a cool simulation! Those are activities your kids will not forget.


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