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Place out of Time

Place out of Time (aka POOT) is a trans-historical simulation in which the participants (be they MS/HS students or university mentors) participate "in character." Each of your students would either choose a historical or a contemporary figure whom they would learn about and ultimately portray in our simulated "trial." In a sense, POOT is an attempt to "bring the wisdom of history" to a contemporary issue--all of the participants are invited to the Alhambra Palace in Spain to be a part of the deliberations of the "Court of All Time."

Here's our Winter 2018 Scenario

The centerpiece of the POOT program is a trial, which uses a fictional but plausible scenario involving questions of freedom, religion, security, or other challenging issues. In Winter 2018, the eyes of the world will be on Spain’s Alhambra Palace, when the Court of All Time convenes in January to hear the appeal of a case in which Italy’s Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a homeless man from the Ukraine (Roman Ostriakov) for stealing approximately five dollars worth of food. The man acknowledged stealing the food, but the court ruled that the man’s “need for nourishment” excused the theft. Genoan shopkeeper Gianna Bennato, owner of the grocery where the theft took place, is bringing the appeal. In a story published in Italy’s La Repubblica, Bennato stated that she feels compassion towards people in Ostriakov’s circumstance, “but if this ruling is allowed to stand, I might as well throw away my cash register and replace it with a sign that says ‘aiuta te stesso’ (Help yourself!)” Great figures from across human history will gather in Granada to decide a case that incorporates complex economic, legal and moral questions.

The challenge for the student participants is to become well-enough acquainted with their chosen character to not only know details about their life and beliefs (the students' first task is to write a short, narrative "profile" in the first person) but to then think deeply enough about what makes them tick to be able to imagine what they might have to say about the free speech/legal/moral issues of the trial. In time, your student portraying, let's say, Malcolm X, will also be conversing with Gandhi, Winnie Mandela and Napoleon (and many more) with the hope being that kids will be engaged in a thought-proving activity that will provide a new twist on studying history, and provide a compelling context for thinking and writing. As you might imagine, we also rely heavily on elements of story and theatricality, and the narrative of the trial typically is guided in large measure by what goes on in the discussions, and the actual trial. The students are assisted in their work by university student mentors, students in mentor seminars on both the Ann Arbor and Flint campuses of the University of Michigan, who engage the students in private conversations and try to push them to think more deeply.

These videos provides a quick introduction to the project, from the perspective of student participants:

Checking out POOT
URL: http://poot.icsmich.org/

demo login: guestteacher@terrace-W17
demo password: guest

Feel free to explore, and/or to click on Guides and Materials on the main page of the site to download the Website Quick Guide, which will show you how to navigate the site.

Here's a link to a recent article of ours about the "serious play" aspect of the simulation: