Black Plague: BackGround for Teachers and others

Particularly for doing the OFF-LINE version *****
Research Links
Presentation Ideas
Off-Line Set up

Go to the California Science Standards for a look at how this simulation may meet the new standards for middle grades and high school. This simulation has been used for grades from 5th through college across the country! If you use it as a teacher and have further questions simply e-mail me at

Go to the Lesson Rubric to determine how to ASSESS student work.

Go to either Modern Plague Links or Historical Plague Links for more information about the plague.

Go the SHOW YOUR STUFFto get ideas for student presentation of what they have learned

Pre-Simulation for OFF-LINE use

Note that the on-line simulation doesn't require these supplies, but is better for one student to do at a time. The OFF-LINE version is better for a whole class or classes.

Supplies: 24 paper bags; White beans (200 per bag); Red Beans (One Bag---should be as close to the size of the white beans as possible; Pinto Beans (One bag---white bean size); Large Map, or better, 3 European maps, divided into regions (Spain, Port, Algeria--Italy,France, Med--France, England, Netherlands); Graphs; colored sticky dots for graphing.

Print out (from one of the pages) and run off enough skulls (class set), and place labels for towns on bags. Have students count out 200 white beans and place into bags. One idea is to have them count out 200, then use a scale to estimate 200 beans for one or two other bags in groups. A discussion about the pros and cons of this method would be worthwhile for math.

Add the proper number of red (Plague) beans to those bags which will have them (see key); likewise for pinto beans, add *one* pinto (Cholera) to *every bag* then put 4 more in the bag for Brussels, 2 more in Rotterdam. Students probably shouldn't know how many Plague beans are in the bags.

Plague Beans Key:
The following *start* with 5 red beans:
Bastia, Rome, Marsala
The Following *start* with 8 red beans:
Cagliari, Tunis
The Following *start* with 2 red beans:
Algiers, Marseille, Venice, Genoa
The Following have 1 red bean:
Barcelona, Lisbon
Ideas For Enrichment
Graphing various relationships can be an integral part of the simulation, but can also be used as an enrichment.

Some teachers make three to four large maps of Europe, and place these either in separate corners of one room or, if more than one class is doing the simulation, into several different rooms (one room can be for writing postcards, journal writing, etc)

In this way students can set up graphs ahead of time. Different colored dots could represent whether they died of the plague, cholera, or survived the entire trip. Different colors could also represent voyages versus pilgrimages.


In debriefing this activity, a discussion concerning how students might change the rules is appropriate. Is this a "fair" game. If not how would they change the rules to make it more real or fairer? Other enrichment can be to research the towns that are being visited, and look for special artistic highlights for postcard writing/pictures.

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Modern Plague Info

Pilgrimage Or Voyage

Plague Historical Research


Map of Europe

Show Your Stuff

How Did You Do?

BackGround Info