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A new world power

Globalisation and its implications are crucial topics of study in geography. An awareness of the types of goods traded between different parts of the world not only gives an idea of how the global economy functions, but also provides an appreciation of how dependent each region is upon others for its prosperity.

The Commodities Game teaches all these things and more. Pupils imagine that a distant aunt has left them pound;90,000 in her will, so that they can start up as an international commodities trader.

The objective is to make as much money as possible over 10 years, by buying goods at the beginning of each year that will be more valuable by the end of it.

The simulation starts with pound;90,000 spread across a range of goods. The player is told what will happen during the year in a particular continent. The challenge is firstly to consider what goods are produced by this continent and how they will be affected by upcoming events. Secondly, pupils must decide whether these events will make the goods harder to obtain (more valuable) or easier to obtain (less valuable). On this basis a decision can be reached on what goods to sell and which to buy instead.

The more the game is played, the more the pupils learn about the goods associated with each region of the world, as well as the roles played by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation.

Another benefit is that the game can be followed by a classroom debate about whether international traders make money out of other people's misery or rather help everyone to get what they need.

As a result, pupils are not left with the impression that the blind pursuit of capital gain has no unpleasant consequences.

Russel Tarr is head of history at the International School of Toulouse in France.

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