Students Gain Rich Sense of History in Classroom Exercise

“So what do you have to do if you have cows, but you need eggs and sheep and honey?” asked Wilkinson, introducing the lesson in bartering. “They (the Mesopotamians) didn’t have money like we do today. They had to barter and trade for things they needed.”

Working in groups, students had to use their resources to barter or trade for items they needed on their “shopping list.” One group had cows and bartered five cows for copper and gold. Others had eggs to trade for beads and sheep and honey.

Once they obtained everything on their shopping list, they were asked to look over what they had left of their own resources and were given a second shopping list. “It’s the next week and you have to get supplies again,” said social studies teacher Mr. Wilkinson.

Some of the groups hadn’t saved much of their own materials and weren’t able to make all the trades needed to complete their second-week lists. They learned the importance of not only bartering for items needed, but also in saving resources for future needs and making wise trades.

In the end, even if students weren’t able to complete their shopping list, they developed a richer understanding of Mesopotamia economics, goods and social interactions.