Idea: West Coast of Alaska Trade Route Map Game

I have started to formulate a lesson plan based on exploring traditional trade routes of the Yup’ik people. I would like to build a fun activity where the kids have a chance to think and plan a route to reach another region of Alaska and/or beyond.

After a short free write to brainstorm ideas, they will meet in small groups to discuss and decide where they want to trade, how they will transport their goods, and by what route they will use to reach their goal.

They will be provided various maps and links to help make their decisions and do further research on the materials needed to make the journey possible. There is a possibility that the activity can be developed into a board game of sorts, but the idea will need more time in the incubator to make into something more tangible.

As a final product for the lesson, I would have the students write about the differences and/or similarities of present day West Coast Alaska to the realities that the Yup’ik and early European settlers faced when seeking to trade goods. Besides looking at the past I would ask how those trade routes have been incorporated into the modern world and what unique logistics go into living on the West Coast of Alaska.

In their small groups, they will create a google map highlighting their route with points of interest to go into further detail and share their knowledge of the people and places they encounter along the way to their goal.

I have been fascinated with the vast network of trade routes that existed before contact with Europeans and hope to stimulate the students interest and get them thinking about the amount of activity that existed before the arrival of Europeans. For example, the mounds found in the Midwest of continental states contained artifacts from the entire breadth of North America before it was a continent to be “discovered”. By developing a greater understanding of trade routes that existed for thousands of years, We can begin to erode the myth that the  “New World”  was an empty land devoid of civilization.

The duration of activity could take any where from 1-2 or 2-3 days depending on how far and elaborate the board game aspect becomes. I am targeting a middle school aged class with room for variation. Let’s say 7th and 8th graders. The lesson will incorporate some geography, history and writing/communication skills.

At this point, I don’t know what is too much take on and how much class time will be needed. The lesson is in a rough- rough draft form at this point, but that’s alright. It is going to get somewhere in some form with a little help from my team.

6 thoughts on “Idea: West Coast of Alaska Trade Route Map Game”

  1. Hey Tyler,

    This lesson idea is really, really, really cool. It’ll get the kids thinking in a lot of different ways, which is great. If you’re going to do this activity with middle schoolers then I think the instructions will need to be very clear, otherwise I could see things getting a little crazy, but that’s something we can help you work on as a group. This should turn out really nicely, man.

  2. Hi Tyler,

    I like your concept a lot. One thing I would think would be cool is to discuss the technologies of trade, as well. The possibility of flying things to Bethel, Dillingham, etc. has dramatically changed trade structures in the region. It would be interesting to me to see a comparison of how it used to be with how it is today and the technological (and legal?) reasons things changed. I’m very excited about this topic.

  3. This is great. I like the focus on using a game. Especially one that is focused on economy. It was also interesting to hear your ideas in the group today about possibly including some cultural roles players have to perform before they can trade/do certain things. Its a big undertaking, but I like that its a unique and fun approach. Also, it makes me want to play Catan.

  4. You and I already talked a lot about this. I don’t want you to feel it HAS to be a board game. Just an idea. I’m fascinated by how modern routes are overplayed historic ones.

    I have to think that between Google Earth and other map apps, you get they students to study landforms, then plan a route they would take. And then compare to indigenous and contemporary routes. And as Ed notes, new technologies create new options for routes.
    PS I’m reminded of an article I published years ago when I was teaching local (upstate NY) history. I was fascinated with how modern roads were all laid out on Iroquois trade routes. It inspired this piece in a Rochester magazine “Invaders Came From the North.”

  5. Tyler, I really liked reading about how your game-lesson morphed and transformed into the final product you presented in the iBook. It’s really cool that you chose to focus on pre-European Alaskan history and Native trade routes. That is really powerful when you think about how often the history of the U.S. is conveyed through a colonialist western-centric lens. I also think that it was amazingly creative and innovative to include both the oral tradition of Yup’ik storytelling and language learning by incorporating Yup’ik language immersion as part of game play. Your project is amazing, and I would love to play the game.

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