Neil Robinson

Recipient of the 2009 Governor General's Award for Excellence in Teaching Canadian History

November 1, 2009
Canada's History speaks to Neil Robinson about his board game-inspired classroom history project.

Westmount Charter School, Calgary (Alberta)

Neil Robinson is a grade 7 teacher who has engaged his students in a comprehensive year long comparative simulation based on the award winning board game, Settlers of Catan. Working in cooperative groups, students go back in time and become explorers, settlers or First Nation.

As they progress through their game, they uncover new land masses, water and natural resources. As part of the simulation, students found settlements, much the same as the original explorers and settlers to Canada would have done. Over time, they are presented with hardships and expected to utilize critical thinking and mapping skills to study topics such as the details of designing a fort or addressing the exploitation of resources.They learn to negotiate with other settlers, explorers and First Nations for items that are required for their survival.

As students make decisions in the simulation, they record them in journals, create cartoons and dialogues and compare their choices to the actual decisions that European settlers and explorers made. Neil Robinson's class is literally learning by living the history of Canada.