Venetian Republic and Economics Activity for Kids

Middle Ages Unit Study Week 14: We learned about the Venetian Republic and played an economics game since the Venetians were mostly merchants.

While the people of modern day France and Germany lived in villages ruled by kings and lords during the middle ages, the Republic of Venice prospered.  Built on a lagoon because it was a safe haven away from the Huns, the Venetians lived for trade. Many of the residents were merchants who traveled to Constantinople and other ports on the Mediterranean Sea.

Venetian Republic

During the 12th century, the people of Constantinople grew fearful of the growing power of the Venetian Republic and imprisoned Venetians living in their city. This act lead to the retaliation of Venice during the 4th Crusade. Constantinople was so badly destroyed by the crusaders that it was a factor in the eventual downfall of the city.

As for Venice, new trade routes discovered by Vasco de Gama which bypassed Venice had serious consequences. Later, wars with the Turks and and the plague weakened the empire until it was finally crushed by Napoleon. Although much of the documentary Francesco's Venice is appropriate for children, there are some parts that are definitely not. Please preview this before watching with children.


Most of us know something about Marco Polo, a very famous resident of Venice. Marco Polo (Animated Hero Classics) is a 30 minute video the kids really enjoyed. Some of our history co-op friends enjoyed Adventures of Marco Polo by Russell Freedman. All of my kids preferred the book Animals Marco Polo Saw (Explorer Series) as it was quite a bit shorter and more interesting to them.

Marco Polo came from Venice, and the Republic of Venice was a great empire which is easy to cover with children in conjunction with a Marco Polo study. In addition to the video, we read two stories to learn more about Venice.

My 12 year old daughter read the book Daughter of Venice which told the story of a girl from a large family living in Venice during the middle ages. Based on the customs of the time, it was her fate to be married or join a convent. She wasn't allowed to get sunburned, she played the violin, her younger sister played the harpsichord and three of her sisters died of the plague. By reading this book she learned much about the way families lived in Venice during the 14th century.

The Lion of St. Mark tells the story of the son of a British merchant living in Venice during the 14th century. When he agrees to take a fare and taxi a mysterious passenger in his new gondola, he discovers a conspiracy. He makes connections with an influential merchant as the villain attempts to kidnap the merchant's two young daughters. My daughter enjoyed this book so much I caught her reading ahead. I read this with my 12 year old daughter, and would recommend this book for older children.

Economics Game

Since Venice was built on trade, we played an economics game.

All that's required to play Snakes and Doughnuts is some dough, stop-watch and pencil and paper. Through a series of one-minute rounds kids learn about supply and demand, the value of working together and how trade can increase value.

With the goal of earning as many points as possible, kids are given one minute to create as many snakes and donuts as possible. Snakes are worth 1 point and donuts are worth 2. Both must be as long as a pencil.

At the end of each round points are totaled and the round is repeated until students are satisfied with their productivity. This is evident as the child's point value for the round levels off.
Once kids understand how to gain as many points as possible the rules are changed.

Rounds are altered in the following ways; the point value for donuts increases to 10 points, the kids work together, 1/2 of the dough is removed, different colors are assigned different point values, each child earns a different amount of points for particular colors and trading with other kids is introduced.

Raki's Rad Resources has a link to a file with rules laid out for seven different rounds.

My children, ages 6, 10 and 12 all were able to easily participate in this activity. Incidentally, as the point values for the rounds change, the activity serves as an excellent review of skip-counting.

For more hands-on activities focusing on history, please visit our History page.

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1 comment:

  1. This is so interesting. I never thought of Venice in the Middle Ages, but I can see from this how it emerged into a leader in the arts during the Renaissance.


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