On a recent spring morning, a school group from Second Nature Academy in Nashua, New Hampshire visited us for our “Travel the Silk Road” school program. This program includes an introduction to silk (in which students get to touch and feel samples, as well as unreel a silk cocoon) and a Silk Road game designed by our Museum education staff. A very inquisitive group, the children had an enthusiastic response and lots of questions upon arrival. They were filled with wonder as they unreeled the cocoon. Students then entered a classroom set up as the Silk Road, to begin the game. The game works like a life-size board game, which is a map of the Silk Road. They were divided into small groups called “caravans” which were friends they would travel with. Each caravan received a cloth sack filled with representations of goods they would take on their travels; silk, spices, ivory, gold coins and food amphorae for survival. Students were fascinated to discover the contents of their bags. They pulled their gold tokens and goods out in awe. They immediately began trying to determine their wealth.
They excitedly positioned themselves at various cities to begin the game. A hand shot up as a student asked Paula Lochhead, our Museum educator teaching the program, if they could name their caravan. “Yes of course you can, be creative.” Paula encouraged. She then proceeded to explain to them that each city along the Silk Road has different values for its goods. They looked again at their bags contents to get a precise sense of their caravan’s value.
Caravans began taking turns rolling hand-made over-sized dice. They traveled spaces ahead as indicated by the dice. The object of the game is to travel and increase your wealth by trading goods, while surviving the potentially brutal travel of the Silk Road desserts and rough terrain. As they took their turns and read cards they found out how far they’d travel in a day and under what circumstances. While waiting for their turns they sat in circles on the floor and planned their next move.