Ancient Civilizations – Paper

Grade 6, 40min kickoff and 5x 15-20min game turns

In the paper-based Ancient Civilizations activity, students create their own civilization and see how it fares over the years based on choices they make for location, animals, plants and natural resources. Students create an artistic rendering of their civilization, trade resources between their civilizations and go to war with an unnamed enemy. This activity was inspired by Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. For an updated computer-based version, check out this lesson plan instead.


Topics addressed:

  • Value of natural resources in ancient civilizations
  • Impact of ecological and pathological events on populations
  • Primary CT concept: abstraction. It would be foolish to try and explain all of ancient history by looking at just the natural resources available to a civilization, but for the purposes of this lesson, we abstract away all other details to focus on this important aspect of burgeoning civilizations.

Students will be able to:

  • Describe the impact of the Bubonic Plague and understand how some civilizations developed immunities, giving them significant advantage over other civilizations
  • Understand that some animals, plants and natural resources are more valuable to a burgeoning civilization than others
  • Understand how certain resources can be used in tandem during periods of war


  • PowerPoint presentation: powerpoint pdf
  • Map activity: word pdf
  • Colored pencils / markers / crayons
  • Game board: word pdf
  • Game cards: word pdf


  • Cut out game cards, place in hat/bag/bowl where they can be randomly drawn from during each turn of the game

Suggested lesson breakdown:

Day one

  • 10min – introduce game, kickoff map activity
  • 30min – students individually select their resources and draw their civilization maps

Day two

  • 5min – students prepare their game board
  • 5min – students calculate food bonuses
  • 5min – the plague hits… revel in the devastation
  • 5min – random events

Days three through six (these can be spread out over several weeks)

  • 5min – students calculate food bonuses
  • 5min – trade or war events
  • 5-10min – random events

Washington State standards:

  • WA.SS.
    Analyzes the costs and benefits of economic choices made by groups and individuals in the past or present.
  • WA.SS.
    Constructs and analyzes maps using scale, direction, symbols, legends and projections to gather information.
  • WA.SS.
    Understands and analyzes how the environment has affected people and how people have affected the environment in the past or present.
  • WA.SS.
    Understands how the rise of civilizations defines eras in ancient history by explaining and comparing the rise of civilizations on two or more continents.
  • WA.SS.
    Understands and analyzes how technology and ideas from ancient civilizations have impacted world history.

Read about how this lesson went at Excel Public Charter School here.