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Black Death Problem-Based Learning Unit
NAGC Curriculum Award-Winner!
Black Death is based on the plague that devastated Europe in the mid-fourteenth century. Students, in the role of local government officials, must decide what to do to keep their town’s residents safe as the Black Death marches toward them. They must assess the level of risk the townspeople face, determine when the plague might arrive in the town, consider what might happen if it does, and decide what to do to try to prevent that from happening.
National Association for Gifted Children Curriculum Award-Winner!
Black Death is based on the plague that devastated Europe in the mid-fourteenth century. The place is the northern Italian town of Lucca, and the year is 1348. Reports of the Black Death have reached Lucca. It has been marching north through Italy, laying waste to one community after another. In Florence, more than half of the city is dead or dying of the disease—and Florence is not that far away.
In this unit, the students have been called as government officials to an emergency meeting to decide what the people of Lucca should do. They complete lessons that help them assess the level of risk they face, determine when the plague might arrive in their town, and consider what might happen if it does. The information available is only what was suspected at the time—that foul vapors carried the disease through the air, for example, instead of fleas. This creates a situation in which the students must use logic and rational thinking to try to save the townspeople against a terrifying unknown, and it ultimately leads to interesting conversations about how medical professionals approach new diseases today. The unit culminates with a presentation by the students to the town’s Council of the Elders of a plan to keep them as safe as possible.