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The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Age of Empires project teaches skills and lessons beyond ancient history

Brad Anderson
A group of students in the Green Empire pose with their battle shields.

When history teacher Brad Anderson started teaching world history about 15 years ago, a student asked what it would be like to fight in a phalanx. 

The next day, Anderson brought cardboard to school, and the class made shields, went to the gymnasium, and underwent a bit of phalanx training. Then, they got some dodgeballs and had the first Age of Empires battle at FHC. 

This sparked an idea for Anderson to take the project further, and now, the AP World History classes build their own empires, their own cultures, their own wonders of the world, their own leadership structures, and their own phalanxes for battle. 

“There’s a lot of politics and negotiation and arguing, and there’s a little bit of confusion and cognitive load and a little bit of stress,” Anderson said, “but also, hopefully, there’s a feeling of unity at the end of it. And I hope students get out of it a feeling of accomplishment at the end and a great memory after the battle.”

In addition to creating an uplifting atmosphere, Anderson tries to employ hands-on learning projects throughout the school year, like Age of Empires, to engage his students in history, including the Trial of Genghis Khan and the World Diplomacy game. 

Through this, he also wants students to gain skills and connections beyond what they would in a traditional academic setting.  

“I hope they develop relationships, build camaraderie and teamwork school spirit, are a part of a tradition, and get outside of their comfort zone,” Anderson said. “I have a firm belief that students need to be outdoors. They need to move, and it increases their brain wave activities being outdoors, moving, having daylight, and having vitamin D.”

For junior Charlie Molitor, the Age of Empires project was also a chance to develop his leadership skills. 

His attitude about the project allowed him to go the extra mile and make the most of his experience.

“I don’t really think too much [about] what others think of me,” Charlie said, “and when you don’t have this high school pressure, like, ‘Oh, I’m doing this correctly,’ that kind of just goes away, and it’s easy to just be like, ‘I’m going to try my best at this.’ Then, I just put more effort into it.”

This led Charlie to have even more fun during Age of Empires, similar to freshman Joe Emerson, who was king of the third-hour Green Empire. 

While he was the only freshman in a predominantly junior class, Joe connected well with his classmates as he managed his empire’s activities and communications. 

“[Age of Empires] definitely helped me to get to know a lot of [my classmates],” Joe said. “Being a freshman, I only really knew four or five people in my class at the beginning of the year, so it allowed me to get to know a lot more of the juniors, and it allowed me to have a lot of relationships that I continue to enjoy now.”

With the opportunity to develop leadership skills and connect with classmates, Age of Empires is unlike most traditional class projects, especially with its grand finale: an interclass dodgeball competition.

This final battle is a favorite memory for many people, including Anderson, Charlie, and Joe. 

There were some dramatic moments and a lot of tactical shifts and the pure joy of getting the win.

— Joe Emerson

“The battle is the best,” Anderson said. “It gets bigger and better and more organized. And now it’s on the football field—I love that.”

Since transitioning from the gym, the battle’s potential has reached much farther, making the experience all the more enjoyable for participants.

Joe also found the battle incredibly fun, especially with experiencing the high emotions of the moment.

“[My favorite memory is] the battle day,” Joe said. “The emotions were so high. We won the first battle and then lost the second, so it was winner-takes-all for the last battle. There were some dramatic moments and a lot of tactical shifts and the pure joy of getting the win. Everyone was going crazy. It was a really crazy moment.”

With multiple classes fighting each other at the same time, it definitely is a crazy moment, one that students aren’t likely to forget.

For Charlie, he particularly enjoyed experiencing the battle with his classmates, whom he’s known for many years.

“[The battle was] complete chaos out of everyone in our entire class and people you’ve known for years,” Charlie said. “It’s a lot of fun because it’s something that never happens. It’s the first and the only time that it’ll ever happen. I’ve known a bunch of people in my age group for years, and then we all just battle each other. And I think that it was a random strange thing. But I think that’s what makes it memorable.”

Age of Empires truly is a project that sticks with students all throughout high school. Its intrinsic values of hands-on learning and gaining more than just knowledge make the weeks-long fun seem to pass by in the blink of an eye. 

Charlie is glad to have pushed himself during the project to make the most of it, and he recommends all future students do the same. 

“Definitely put yourself out there,” Charlie said. “It’s really easy to want someone else to lead the group, but I think if you put yourself out there and put effort into it and really try, then it is a lot more enjoyable. I think if you treat it like it’s going to be something worthwhile, then it is going to be something worthwhile.”

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About the Contributor
Saniya Mishra, Copy-Editing Manager
Saniya Mishra is a senior, writing for her third and final year on staff, busied by her many passions. She is an artist who cares deeply about the world. But there's one love she especially enjoys, loses herself in completely, only to resurface with a newfound perspective and a couple hundred words vomited on a Google Doc. Ever since third grade, she's fallen head over heels for writing. It is her escape. It is her adventure. It is her everything. Favorite writers: Ruta Sepetys, Amanda Gorman Favorite books: 1984 by George Orwell, Salt to the Sea Ruta Sepetys, I'll Give You The Sun Jandy Nelson, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins Favorite colors: maroon, emerald, navy blue, lavender Favorite songs: "hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me" by Lana Del Rey, "Can I Call You Tonight?"  by Dayglow, and "Growing Sideways" by Noah Kahan

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