Greenwich Village 1913

The Long Civil Rights Seminar was one of the more captivating courses I took in first year. The close interaction between the professor and other students eased my transition from high school. Taking this seminar not only strengthened my writing ability and oral presentation skills, but it engaged me to learn about the civil rights movement in an interesting perspective. I would definitely take this course again if I could.

   ~ Student on the 2017/2018 Reacting first-year seminar

Dancing to the past

Having a voice

Immersive historical games

Students to play an historical character and use competitive team play to engage in complex historical problems.

Each game comes with a textbook with readings and directions for the game.

Students receive a role sheet of 4 to 8 pages describing their character and the requirements for the game.

The "game master" receives an instructor's manual with detailed game information.



Subversive game design

Created by Mark Carnes, the game design is inspired by subversive play common among undergraduates (e.g., the game Assassins, party culture, athletics).

To engage students intellectually and emotionally in historical problems, this pedagogy draws on:

  • The same sense of identity change experienced in subversive play
  • Competition
  • Irrationality (e.g., leave behind the reality of the present, dress up, enjoy the energy and fun of play)

Intellectually rigorous

Reacting is intellectually rigorous.

Students must read extensively and understand the texts in order to use those ideas to further their own goals.

Each game introduces students to an array of sources of the past:

  • Scholarly articles
  • Primary source texts
  • Visual images
  • Sound
  • Films
  • Art

Reacting is deep learning

Reacting experiences suggest that students:

  • Understand themselves more fully by imagining they are someone else
  • Find failure to be the pathway to success
  • Experience strong community bonds through fierce competition
  • Embrace moral thinking
  • Acquire leadership skills by becoming team mates
  • Understand the past better by filtering it through their own present


First-year experience: Antidote to loneliness

A new study from the University of British Columbia, Harvard Business School and Harvard Medical School argues that loneliness is a key problem particularly for first-year students.

Reacting is one antidote to loneliness because it requires students to:

  • work together
  • form teams
  • use deceit to forward their goals at the expense of others and
  • convince "Indeterminates" to join their team

Research skills: A need for Maud

Students need to do the research to deepen their understanding of:

  • The historical problems
  • Their assigned character
  • Their character's opponents

That didn't happen the first year.

Enter Maud Malone: A new character and a new approach to engaging students in research. 

Meeting UDLES, getting PIPS



  • Core research support (PIPS)
    • Course guide
    • One-to-one research consultations
    • Links in cuLearn to library resources (e.g., the course guide and the virtual chat service)
  • Being visible in the classroom
    • In character: The lived experience
    • Costume lending library
  • On-going collection development

A Reacting hub at Carleton

  • Reacting had been adopted as a teaching practice at 350 colleges and universities in the U.S.
  • Faculty in other countries are also exploring this pedagogy: We may be the first in Canada.
  • Our goal is to make Carleton a Reacting hub, i.e, expand and develop this pedagogy on campus.




Having Maud Malone, the librarian, as a resource in Greenwich Village was very helpful. She provided opinions in class about the suffrage and labour movements and gave the students another character to work off of in the context of the game.

She provided us with resources in the school library to help us further our research and got us interested in our character's stories beyond the textbook.

   ~  Emma Weichers (Polly Holladay, 2018)


Prof. Pamela Walker
Department of History, Carleton University

Professor of History and Joint Chair in Women’s Studies 2011-2014
Historian of modern British history with a particular interest in women and gender and African American history. 


Martha Attridge Bufton 
Interdisciplinary Studies Librarian, Carleton University 
Martha is a member of the Research Support Services team at the Carleton University Library. She is responsible for teaching, collection development and liaison for a number of programs as well as digital humanities in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Her research interests include women and work, game-based learning and culturally responsive teaching.