One of the most interesting and enjoyable projects I’ve done with my students is working together to design the Crusades and Culture in the Middle Ages worksheet. I find that it’s often the most effective learning tool for students when it comes to history. When students are forced to think creatively about how history changed through time, and to create a worksheet based on that, they tend to better grasp concepts like geographic and cultural differences.
At first glance, the Crusades and Culture in the Middle Ages worksheet may seem quite simple. It simply involves grouping together a few demographic traits to get a basic idea of the Crusader States, then showing the map and showing a few groups that are related. Of course, as students do this, they often ask questions about historical periods in the Middle Ages, or about their own personal Crusader experiences. This leads to an exploration of the various factors that created those periods, and into imagining what could have happened if things had been different.
In fact, I’ve found that when students begin to engage in creative thinking about the Crusades and Culture in the Middle Ages, they come up with different scenarios based on different knowledge. Take, for example, the Crusades, as the First Crusade did not defeat the Turks in Palestine and the Second Crusade did not defeat the Muslims in Jerusalem. Of course, that does not mean that the First Crusade was wrong, only that the First Crusade and the Second Crusade did not have the same effect on both peoples, so which one do you consider right? After you find the answer to that question, you can then work backward and compare the two Crusades, or you can move forward to envision the other outcomes, if you think any of those were possible.
Another question students often ask about Crusades and Culture in the Middle Ages is “What would happen if Europe had its own group of Crusaders?” This too has a number of interesting, and not so interesting, answers. Justlike when it comes to the history of modern Europe, there are no easy answers, only hard ones.
For starters, we have to think about how the Crusades and Culture in the Middle Ages would look today. Of course, we can’t directly compare the two Crusades because of political differences between the European powers at the time. Of course, even if the Crusades could be compared to a perfect case study, it’s very difficult to make the “other side” look good.
But, that’s okay because we can do some fun research into the history of Crusades in the Middle Ages and use it as an opportunity to talk about the modern day implications of those actions. What would it be like if these Crusades had taken place today? What problems would the world be facing today if we’d never had those Crusades?
It’s also fun to look back at the past and see how those Crusades in the Middle Ages played out, and what have the consequences been for many of them? Sometimes the consequences are quite tragic, and sometimes they’re far more mundane.
When you’re designing a Crusades and Culture in the Middle Ages worksheet, it’s important to begin thinking creatively about the potential effects. When students are challenged to think about that, they’re much more likely to understand the differences and the complexities that made those Crusades in the Middle Ages so interesting and unique.