September 21, 2016
It’s one thing to read about Socrates, Julius Caesar and Van Gogh, but imagine taking part in the Greek philosopher’s infamous trial for treason, standing among angry senators in the Forum of ancient Rome or defending your radical new art style in late 19th-century Parisian salons. That’s just what Reacting to the Past is — students researching and re-enacting moments in time.
“Because Reacting engages students actively, they learn more deeply, says professor Gretchen McKay, an early adopter of the active-learning pedagogy originated in the late 1990s by Barnard College History professor Mark Carnes.
McKay, who has been using Reacting in her classrooms for a decade, was recently appointed chair of the national Reacting to the Past consortium board, representing more than 40 member colleges and universities, that currently oversee the curriculum. The dozen or so published, and 200 unpublished, Reacting games are in use by faculty at hundreds of colleges and universities across the nation and around the world, she says.