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MESOPOTAMIA LIVE ACTION ROLE-PLAY BY SEEKERS UNLIMITED

Conduct business as a merchant, engage in politics as a governor, chart the skies as an astrologer, and safeguard the traditions of your people as a priest in ancient Mesopotamia through the magic of live action role-play!

grade level:
6-8
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Created by
Jeremy Yanofsky

EDUCATIONAL LIVE-ACTION ROLE PLAY (EDU-LARP) overview

The following description is from Seekers Unlimited, a nonprofit organization that designs edu-larp experiences for students:

Educational Larp (edu-larp) is a form of spontaneous, co-creative, active learning. Edu-larp utilizes interactive experiences embedded within conceptual narratives that inspire students to enjoy and retain their lessons. The unique experience of role-playing enhances student engagement, social skills, interest, and mastery of scholastic subject matter.

The urge to enact narratives in a group setting is a natural expression of human culture, an essential part of ritual activity cross-culturally. Tribal cultures across the world enact participatory stories for pedagogical purposes within a group setting, often containing mythological or otherwise epic content. Therefore, these recent permutations of interactive storytelling emerging in the twentieth century are best viewed on a continuum of role-taking activities inherent to human social behavior.

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Experience breakdown

Lesson Plan Overview

Mesopotamia Educational Live Action Role-Play (edu-larp) by Seekers Unlimited is a week-long, fully immersive collaborative storytelling game in which students and teachers assume the roles of fictional characters within the context of ancient Mesopotamia during the reign of Hammurabi (estimated between 1779 BC and 1715 BC). Students role-play various classes that existed during ancient Mesopotamia (merchants, governors, astrologers, and priests) and gain a deeper understanding of the “Cradle of Civilization” through researching the social norms and practices of Mesopotamian culture and interacting with one another, while in character, to fulfill in-game objectives. Facilitators also have an important role, acting as the “Judges of Babylon”, responsible for establishing the overall narrative, introducing each activity, maintaining competitive balance, and advising students on their character-driven objectives.

This page is an overview of the entire five-day unit, providing the educational value of this experience and brief summaries of each activity. Additional content pages will provide learning objectives, list of materials, documents, and step-by-step instructions on how to run the activities.

Below is a video explanation by Aaron Vanek, executive director of Seekers Unlimited, explaining the overall experience of the edu-larp, including what students are doing, what they are learning, and the inherent educational value of the larp structure.

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Setting up and facilitating an edu-larp requires a high level of organization, resourcefulness, critical thinking, and patience. However, the highly immersive experience is well worth it. Through role-playing characters in ancient Mesopotamia whose actions are directly tied to specific learning objectives (e.g. students who are assigned the role of governors must hold court but first must understand and uphold the Code of Hammurabai, one of the first set of written laws), students' learning, enjoyment, and success in the activities correlate to the amount of effort they put into their respective roles.

Here, Aaron explains another integral and unique concept of the Mesopotamia edu-larp: emergent gameplay.

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ease of use

As stated previously, planning, organizing, and facilitating an edu-larp is a time-consuming but ultimately rewarding process. Fortunately, because this specific edu-larp has been run before, accompanying handouts and documentation of the entire unit are available.

Reading through the documents for each activity of the edu-larp is required and will take a minimum of three hours. Additionally, there are many materials to collect, make, and organize before unveiling and beginning the edu-larp. We will provide a material list for each day of the unit on their specific page.

We also recommend having at least two facilitators at all times to keep students on task and for general classroom management (since students will be moving around and talking to each other quite frequently).

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day-by-day summary

Below are brief descriptions of the activities of the Mesopotamia edu-larp, organized by day.

Day 1: Introduction, Character Sheets, and Merchants Activity

1-1. Introduction: Students are provided with an explanation of what a larp is and the overall narrative of the Mesopotamia edu-larp (the rival kingdom of Elam is planning an attack on Mesopotamia and students' actions affect the outcome of the story). Below is a short video of the facilitators introducing the larp concept to their students.

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1-2. Character Roles: Students are given their 'Character Sheets', which contains their assumed role in Mesopotamian society (merchant, priest, astrologer, or governor), the city-state they belong to, their character goal (actions their assumed role wants to accomplish), and academic goals (content or moral questions they must answer). Some students are also given a "Time Traveler" role, which will be further explained in the Day 1 page.

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Sample character sheet of a Mesopotamian merchant, named Dungi, from the city-state of Kish.

1-3. Merchant Activity: In an ancient Mesopotamian market bazaar setting, students assigned as merchants are in charge of officiating all transactions made by other students who role-play as buyers and sellers of goods. Through this activity, students learn the importance of trade in a community, the basic concepts of supply and demand, and the value of keeping written recording of transactions (using Cuneiform).

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Here, a student merchant uses Cuneiform to keep track of all his transactions at the market bazaar.

Day 2: Governors Activity and the Map Game

2-1. Governors Activity: Students study the Code of Hammurabi and participate in a series of mock-trials. Students assigned as governors hold court and pass judgment while other students role-play as prosecutors and defendants of various law-related scenarios (e.g. being caught stealing at the market bazaar). Sample scenarios will be provided for this activity.
Through studying the Code of Hammurabi and passing judgment based on the Code, students learn how to interpret a set of laws, consider its ethics, and develop compelling arguments based on their interpretations.
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The prosecutor, a merchant, argues his case for justice as the governors listen intently.

2-2. The Map Game: Using a large map to show students the location of the oncoming Elamite Empire attack, students band together as citizens of Mesopotamia, using their knowledge of Babylonian culture in a series of Jeopardy/Trivia Pursuit-like games to stop the invasion.

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Students from different Mesopotamian city-states ready their armies for the Elamite attack.

Day 3: Astrologers Activity and the Map Game

3-1. Astrologers Activity: Students assigned as astrologers construct a star wheel and use the tool to read the prophesies of the other students who have been handed out omens that they have "experienced". Astrologers learn about the Babylonian calendar, making predictions based on observational science, and the benefit of keeping records. If the astrologers make the correct reads based on the omens of their fellow citizens, they are given an extra bonus to purchase goods and further their character-driven goals.

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The facilitator assists an astrologer with reading the star wheel and making prophecies.

3-2. The Map Game: The Elam Empire continues to prepare their attack as the Babylonian citizens use knowledge of their society to defend.

Day 4: Priests Activity and the Map Game

4-1. Priests Activity: Students assigned as priests learn the Epic of Gilgamesh and construct appropriate props and costumes to perform "the oldest written story on Earth" for their fellow Babylonian citizens, ensuring the story continues to pass through the annals of history. In this activity, students engage in story analysis and interpretation, learn about dramatic representation, understand the basic mythic elements of the hero's journey, and understand the relationship between myth and history.
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A group of priests communicate the beliefs of ancient Mesopotamia by performing the Epic of Gilgamesh for their fellow citizens.

4-2. The Map Game: The final installment of the map game where students answer questions and see if their knowledge of their society saved them from the Elam Empire.

Day 5: Time Traveler Presentation and Wrap-Up

5-1. Time Traveler Presentation: Students who were given the dual role of a "Time Traveler" give a presentation on what they discovered about ancient Mesopotamian society, analyzing its economy, government, technology, and religion. During this activity, the other students assume the role of members of the Time Traveler’s community (e.g. school/organization’s town), and the Judges of Babylon (i.e. facilitators) assume the roles of press conference moderators.
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The time travelers arrive back from the time of ancient Mesopotamia to present their findings to the Time Traveler's community.

5-2. Wrap-Up: Students are given the rest of the day to reflect on the week-long LARP and accomplish their academic goals, answering questions that were on their "Character Sheets" that can be used to assess their learning and the success of the LARP as an educational experience.

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A sample of the questions that must be answered by the students assigned as priests.

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