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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Day 2: Governors Activity and the Map Game
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.
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.
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
4-2. 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
5-2. 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.