Cross curriculum, experiential games helped Arapahoe Middle Schoolers learn about the Bozeman Trail, Mexican American War last week

(Arapahoe, WY) – Arapahoe Middle Schoolers were in for a treat last week, as Tory Sanders with Elephanta Education stopped by on her gaming tour to teach the kiddos about the Bozeman Trail and the Mexican American War.

Sanders and Elephanta Education aim to “empower students with knowledge-based skills that they can use to transform any dilemma into a working solution,” while also stressing the importance of learning the perspectives of the groups and peoples involved in the historical events depicted in the games.

Elephanta Education game board. h/t Vince Tropea

“We achieve this goal by combining commercial game design with federal learning standards, creating a fundamental shift in the way students relate to each other, and to the world around them,” the game website adds.


The full game descriptions are below.

  • Bozeman Trail: “Set against the backdrop of the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie, this illegal short-cut off the Oregon Trail explores the nature of boom & bust economies across the Northern Plains from six points-of-view. Learning culminates as players race to manage the 2016 Standing Rock/Dakota Pipeline conflict using the game’s original constraint. Because Tribal treaties aren’t history, they’re federal law.
  • Poder:Just because you can, does that mean you should? With PODER, students create a head-spinning model of the Mexican American War. From commodity deals in Louisiana and trade fairs in Santa Fe; from the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto; to a lone soldier breaking the chain of command in Alta California. The trick is understanding the difference between power and protocol.”

Sanders travels around the state teaching the above games (as well as two others) through a grant funded by the Episcopal Foundation of Wyoming.

“The games are aligned to meet all of the specific region’s education standards including, math, English, C3 (Social Studies) and social and emotional learning,” Sanders told County 10.

The Bozeman Trail game specifically meets Wyoming Indian education standards, and teaches the perspectives of the Lakota, Northern Arapaho, Cheyenne, settlers, calvary, railroad workers and the Eastern Shoshone.


Sanders added that seeing the students relate to their personal history is a key component of the game.

“For all of us to work through the different massacres, the economic forces, the legal forces; for the students to work through and understand why this is their reservation, why this is there home; it hits home. It makes history real.”

Sanders and Elephanta Education were approached to teach the game as a part of a cross-curriculum, Professional Learning Community (PLC) effort from the school that incorporates math, history, science and ELA in an experiential game setting.


Jamie LeJambre, the Middle School and High School Social Studies teacher, found out about Sanders and the games while at a PLC conference and knew it would be the perfect opportunity for a cross curricular lesson.

“Any school will be nervous doing a big cross curricular lesson like this,” LeJambre said, but added that the student response has been great.

“They’ve really taken ownership and they’ve taken on the perspective of their roles and making those connections. Some of the students who are more reserved or quiet are being a leader in other ways,” while playing the game, LeJambre added.


Ashley Whipp, a 7th Grade English teacher commented that the experience has been “wonderful.”

“Everybody’s done a great job working together. The prep was a lot of work, but it’s really paid off,” Whipp said, adding that during the recaps at the end of the sessions she could see first hand the students’ comprehension. “It was pretty awesome to see the students internalize what was being taught in the game.”

One student, 8th grader Yesselyn, told County 10 about her experience playing the game, commenting, “I really like the game. Some parts are hard, but having someone talk you through it really helps. I like the hands on stuff because it’s easier for me to learn, specifically.”

8th graders Christopher and Jace echoed Yesselyn’s thoughts, commenting that combining the classes with the board game style helped with learning “new things they never knew before.”


Related Posts

Have a news tip or an awesome photo to share?