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Home School Life Journal
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales
painting by Katie Bergenholtz

The Plague Spreads (1350-1355)

First we read and worked in our notebooks about the plague -where it came from, how it spread, what it was like.
And then, we played a game that I learned from my friend Denise, who used it in a co-op class that Sam was in when he was young.
This game only needs cups filled about 1/3 full of water. One you will color with food coloring.
You need at least eight people for this game. We used the seven people in our family and a mysterious Mr. X. If you do not have many in your family, you could do this with other families (I first heard about this game at a co-op) or you could stuffed animals or you could just label cups with names or even numbers. In advance, make a chart that lists the names of all the people at the top. Have them draw slips of paper with the names of the players on it, so that it is random who goes to who and record these under the names on the chart. You have to make sure that each person does not draw their own name or the same name twice. Do this three times, so in the end you have a chart with all the names on it and three names (that are all different) below each name of the other players.
The origin of the plague's cup of water is colored dark red with food coloring. The rest are left clear.
In the first round everyone goes across the chart, one at a time, and shares his cup by pouring about half of his water into the cup of the first person under his name on the chart. How may have the plague now?
On the second round, everyone shares with the second person on the chart. How many have it now?
On the next round, share with the third person. How many have the plague now?
We played this several times.
On our first time playing it, Katie had the plague.
 She shared with Alex the first round. So now, there were two people with the plague. On the second round, Katie shared with Steven and Alex shared with James. So, now Katie, Alex, Steven and James had it, for a total of four. On the next round Katie shared with Quentin. Alex shared with Sam. Steven shared with Mr. X. James shared with Phyllis, for a grand total of eight people with the plague. Do you see a pattern occurring? Using this same pattern, you could predict what would happen if the game were to have been broadened out to a larger group and more rounds.
On our second time of playing we decided to let Mr. X be the origin of the plague. On the first round Mr. X shared with James, so now there were two with the plague.On the second round, James shared with Katie and Mr. X shared with Alex
 Now we had four with the plague. On the third round James shared with Phyllis, Katie shared with Steven, Mr. X shared with Quentin and Alex shared with Sam. Now all eight had the plague.
It is a good, visual way of showing how quickly the plague can spread.
Of course, this isn't exactly the way the Black Death spread in the Middle Ages. If that were so, all would have died. Some who were exposed, did not come down with it. Some that came down with it did not spread it. Lots of variables. In the end, about 1 out of 3 people died of it.
This game is just to show how quickly and exponentially bacteria can spread.

other related activities:


  1. I've seen the glitter germs version, but I kind of like this one.

  2. I read this the other day, why didn't I comment hmmm! This was a cool way of demonstrating how the plague spread. Thank you for linking up this week!

  3. That's a great hands-on lesson! Kids remember and comprehend so much more when it's made personal to them; when they can touch, feel, and see what they need to understand.

  4. This is still super cool seven years later.


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