Uniting the States!
| Time Required | Rules | Design Process | References |
The learning objective supported by this game is that students
will know the specific territorial acquisitions made by the United
States resulting in 48 contiguous states by 1912. This objective
supports standard 8.8 of the State of California's Academic Standards
History/Social Science Standards.
Learners & Context of Use
Uniting the States! is targeted for use by 8th graders who are studying American History at Horace Mann Middle School in San Diego, CA. These students range from 12 to 14 years old, about evenly mixed in gender, with varied ethnic backgrounds. About 30% are Asian (Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, Hmung, Filipino or Chinese), about 30% are Spanish speakers, about 15% are Caucasian, about 15% are African-American and 10% are Somalian, Ethiopian or Sudanese. About 60% of these students are in the school's second language program, since English is not their first language, but they are at the highest level before they can be classified as fluent English speakers. Who is the game designed for? Describe them in terms of their age, grade level, affinity towards the subject matter, and anything special about them that the reader should know.
The game is designed to be used by 4-6 students at a time. A classroom would need 6-8 of these games in order to include all the children, unless the teacher made modifications to include groups. A later version of this game will include a lesson plan with such modifications. The game could be played more than once by the students, but hopefully they would then show increased knowledge and would correctly answer more questions.
When the game is completed, the teacher could take some time to
discuss key historical events that came up during the game, including
the how's and why's of the "decision" cards. This is a good time to
discuss other historical decisions that either the country or
individual people have
had to make as our country has grown.
Object of the Game
The object of the game is to answer questions concerning expansion
of the United States while moving chronologically around the map. The
first player (or team) to reach Arizona and correctly answer a final
question is declared the winner.
The game board is map of the 48 contiguous states of the United States. The map is colored to match the major territorial acquisitions of the U.S., similar to the map shown to the right (with different coloring for each territorial acquisition). The map lists each state's date of statehood, but no names, since some of the questions players much answer ask for the name and spelling of the state they've currently placed their game piece.
The "knowledge" cards are color-coded to match the corresponding regions on the map (game board). The front of the card contains the question and a number of hats. The hats represent the number of spaces the player will advance upon successfully answering the question. The back of the card contains the answer.
A sample question:
What English settlement failed twice, in 1585 and
in 1587, finally disappearing and being called "The Lost
There are 5 "decision" cards, each one color-coded to match a particular region. The front of each card describes a dilemma related to a particular region of the country. On the back of each card is a whimsical graphic.
A sample dilemma:
You are a merchant in New York in 1776. The British are threatening to capture New York. If you remain in the city, you might be able to make money serving the British. But if the British then leave, the Patriots might burn your store since you helped the enemy. If you leave the city, you'll leave your store, which is your livelihood. Should you stay in New York or leave the city before the British get there?
If you decide to stay in New York: spin red or green to advance to Kentucky.
If you decide to leave New York: spin blue or yellow to advance to Kentucky.
The spinner is used in concert with the "decision" cards. A player has a 50%, 25%, 12.5%, and 12.5% chance of spinning red, blue, yellow, and green, respectively.
The tokens are "Uncle Sam" hats. Each one is a different color, made of plastic, and small enough so multiple hats can occupy the same space on the game board.
Uniting the States! takes less than a minute to set up. It
is designed to last the better part of one class period (40-50
minutes). A game could carry over to a second class period, as long
as the pieces' positions were recorded.
Number of players: 2-4
1. Each player chooses a token and places it in Delaware (1787 A on the game board).
2. Place the "decision" cards on the board's designated area.
3. Shuffle (by color) the "knowledge" cards.
4. Spin to determine the order of play. The first player to spin green begins the game; order follows clockwise.
5. Players advance spaces by correctly answering "knowledge" questions color-coded with the currently occupied region.
6. Questions are asked from the "active" player's immediate right; the player has one minute to respond.
7a. Correct response -- the player moves the number of spaces (chronologically) based on the question's difficulty level (designated on card by number of hats). It is then the next player's turn.
7b. Incorrect response -- the first player to the left may try to answer the same question (and move the appropriate number of spaces) at no risk of losing a turn. "Stealing" the question proceeds clockwise until it arrives at the reader. Whether or not anyone ever answers the question correctly, it becomes the 2nd player's turn in the original rotation.
Moving into another region:
8. While moving spaces following a correctly answered question, a player must stop (and stay) on each region's (chronologically) latest state.
9. The player draws the top "decision" card, plays the described spinner game, and moves (or does not move) accordingly.
Winning the game:
10. Upon reaching the space "Arizona/1912" (not necessarily by an exact count), a player wins the game by correctly answering a final question.
11. The player to the right, as usual, asks the question.
12. Together, the other players choose the question's category, but they may not review the "knowledge" cards before selecting one.
13. If the final question is answered incorrectly, play proceeds as usual, including "stealing" the question.
Realizing that middle school students have a difficult time visualizing the territorial expansion of the United States, we decided to make a game that would bring students through the growth of the country in a visual, instructional, and fun way. A review of education catalogs revealed a number of geographical or political games (such as electing a president), but nothing tailored to our particular topic of expansionism.
Our game initially took on the aspect of a race across the United States. We had penalties for landing on an occupied space (squatter's rights); random occurrences (based on travel predicaments) that dictated a player's gaining or losing extra spaces; and a board layout that allowed players to move from one state to any bordering state within the same "expansion" region.
We then remembered that we wanted our game's players to learn about the United States' chronological growth, which does not really mirror taking a literal trip across the map. Therefore, we labeled each state with its date of statehood, and made political decision making part of the game.
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Last updated October 26, 1998