5. Marco Polo Trading Game Lesson Plan


Recommended: This game will be a stronger learning experience if students have already gained some background knowledge by going on the VR Silk Road Field Trip (Lesson 2) and/or creating their 3-D map (Lesson 3).


Important Note: CHROME (best) – or Firefox (2nd best) – is highly recommended for this activity. Do not use Safari.

In this interactive trading game activity, students learn about the valuable goods traded on the Silk Road, the importance of geography when trading resources, and the value of international trade in spreading culture and ideas.

Students will be assigned to an ancient city, learn what goods and resources it possessed, and then bargain and trade individually and in teams to obtain goods from famed market cities linked by the Silk Road.

Using the game’s clear directions (Teacher’s Introductory Script and Denis’ instructional video at the start of the game), students will discover the best strategies for long-distance trade among these 5 major trading centers on the Silk Road: Venice, Samarkand, Tabriz, Kashgar, and Dadu.

They will take turns being shopkeepers and traveling merchants, consider geographic diversity, gauge the value of middlemen, and understand the importance of verbal communication in trade by working together. A debriefing session will follow and opportunities for assessment are detailed below.

Older students can conduct research on present-day world trade and compare it with those of the Silk Road era. An extension activity called “Real World Economics: Trade Today” will guide their exploration of this topic.

Class TIme Required:

1 class period
2 periods if the extension activity is assigned
+ Homework if the essay is assigned



Included in the website


  1. The trading game needs to be set up before class begins. Game setup access is located within the teacher dashboard. Teacher will assign students to specific teams (trading cities). Stronger students can be spread among the groups. Set up will only take about one-two minutes.
  2. This game will result in excitement and high energy! Team members should sit together or near each other for noise reduction. Each team should be given space apart from other teams, if possible. You should consider using some separation, like putting one group in the hallway, or have everyone go outdoors if your WiFi is strong.
  3. All students must have their device’s camera and microphone on. A quick check for this will minimize delays to starting the game. The game will not begin until every student has successfully logged in. Students should have headphones plugged in and ready to use. (If the teacher is playing the game, they will need headphones, too.)
    ⁃ Chrome or Firefox browsers must be used for this activity! Safari should NOT be used.
    ⁃ iPad apps will be downloaded separately.
    ⁃ Game performance will be enhanced with every student logged onto the same network if playing in class, and sitting close to a router if playing remotely.
    ⁃ If your school has known internet issues, students can try using hotspots on their cell phones to overcome that.
    ➤ Troubleshooting tip: Students should restart their computers, especially if Zoom has been used prior to the game, as their cameras may still be aligned to Zoom. Quitting Zoom and closing a window are NOT the same thing – so a restart will ensure that the Zoom camera is no longer in use
  4. Important: Teacher reads the Introductory Script and Debriefing Discussion Guide (provided on the website) to students. Stop at the debriefing questions–these will be revisited after the game has been played.
  5. Students begin by listening to Denis’ instructions to the game, then PLAY! Each round lasts 2 minutes and there are 10 rounds.
  6. After 5 rounds, the game will pause and ask students to consider their trading strategies and to help each other if anyone needs it. They will discuss strategies briefly in breakout rooms within the game, and then switch roles (assigned automatically.)
  7. At the end of 10 rounds, the game is over (about 25 minutes) and the winning team will be declared and celebrated.
  8. Teacher will hold a class debriefing using the questions at the bottom of the Introductory Script and Debriefing Discussion Guide.
    ➤ In a classroom setting, the discussion can be live, but in a distance learning setting, a class breakout room is built into the game for students and teachers to see each other and interact.


1. Real World Economics: Trade Today

Students should be grouped by specific trading partners with their country (China, Vietnam, Mexico, India, etc.)

It should be noted that Silk Road commerce was primarily driven by three factors:
  1. A desire for profit
  2. A fascination with the exotic
  3. A means to enhance the political power of a particular nation

Keeping that in mind, let’s look at modern global trade and see what is driving other countries’ trade practices. These questions will be considered:

➤ Students will access and use the graphic organizer, Present-Day Trading Partner Research, that will guide their explorations.

Presentation and debriefing

Research results can be presented informally or through Google Slide shows.

Debriefing Question: What similarities do you see between Silk Road trade and modern-day world trade practices?

2. Current Events: Exploring China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Today’s global trade has been transformed by China’s multi-trillion dollar Belt and Road Project, stretching from East Asia to Europe. This is a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013 to invest in nearly 70 countries and international organizations. This corridor of commerce is making the Silk Road even more relevant today, as the ancient cities of the past have now become centers of innovation and modern exchange!

➤ Students can also research the most recent US trade policies with China – considered the newest “trade war.” Have students turn and talk about how this war is working out for the Americans and the Chinese, and what the implications are for today.

➤ Ask students to make a list of the Chinese products they use in their daily lives (electronics, tools, clothing, etc) and then a list of American products (cars, clothing, food, etc). They can search for labels in their homes to become more aware of where products are manufactured.

➤ Essay idea: Using specific examples, describe how the Silk Road promoted a multicultural world. Choose at least 4 areas that you can write about (ie: trade, religion, cultural traditions, politics, art, technology, etc). Finish your discussion with an example of that happening in today’s world—where is it and what is being diffused?