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Black Death Activities for the Classroom

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

The Black Death or the Bubonic Plague killed 1 in 3 people in the 14th Century. It ran rampant and ravaged the the world. This lesson provides some activities to help students learn about the Black Death.

The Black Death

The Black Death plagued Europe during the 14th Century. Originating in Asia, the disease spread to Europe when merchant ships infested with rats and fleas reached Sicilian shores. It moved all over Europe faster than anything the world had seen before. Hundreds of thousands of people, or about one in three, died. It was called the Black Death because it caused large boils on the skin that oozed black liquid.

This was a terrible point in history as the population decreased drastically and war waged. Use the following activities to keep your students engaged as they learn about the Black Death.

Activities

Altered Book

An altered book is an art project created out of old books. You use an old hard back book to cut, paint, and design new artistic images that resemble or symbolize the subject you are discussing. This can be a fun activity for students who like the dark and gothic. Students can create an altered book for a certain part of Europe that was affected by the Black Plague.

Materials Needed:

  • Old textbook with good binding
  • Paint
  • Glue
  • Construction paper
  • Beads or decorative pieces like gems
  • Scissors

Have students start with and old hardcover book, and have them spend time gluing pages together so that there are only a few pages that can be opened within the book. This will take time, but it will also make the book sturdier for further work. Then, have the students use paints, markers, and paper to put a base on the book. For example, the student could paint the inside and outside of the book black for symbolism. Then on the cover and the pages that are not glued, they can create images and words to symbolize other things they learned about the plague and its affects.

They can also have one page dedicated to the city or country their book represents, and then have several other pages decorated for the horrific events that happened in that area. Each student can be assigned a different area. When they're finished, allow students to present their altered books to the class.

Journal Article

Have your students act like journalists that are living in a city that the bubonic plague has hit. Instruct students to research their city and write an article that discusses the events of the Black Death and how it affected the people in that city. This reinforces what the students have learned about the plague and its consequences on humanity.

Beans

This is a fun game to get students up and moving.

Materials Needed:

  • 15 small brown paper bags (like lunch bags)
  • 1-2 bags of dried pinto beans
  • 1 bag of dried black beans
  • Posters of areas affected by the black death to post around the room

First you need count out 300 pinto beans and place in each brown bag. Then count 100 black beans and place in each bag, and shake them up thoroughly. Secondly, you will need to set up your classroom to represent Europe. Have posters set up on or around desks symbolizing a country like Italy, Germany, and so on.

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