History is naturally captivating, filled with mind-boggling plot twists and all the elements that make for fantastic fiction. Or at least, history can be captivating when, and only when, it is taught in the right way. The history of Spain is no different. Tired of the worn out way kids are taught history at school, one woman set about to create a more interactive way of understanding the people and places that fill the pages of Spanish history, creating educational card games for all ages.
These card games are a great intergenerational way to learn about Spanish history through play. ( Ciudades en Juego )
Using Card Games to Teach Spanish History
With unforgettable personalities such as Catherine of Aragon , the Spanish wife of the English King Henry VIII , to Boabdil the last Muslim king of Spain who surrendered to the Catholic King Ferdinand II and Isabella I, giving up the keys to the Moorish capital of Granada in 1492, Spanish history is a riveting read.
All of these Spanish characters provide the raw materials to create stories that keep people at the edge of their seats. But, the reality is that kids often find history “boring” because of the way its taught, with an emphasis on trying to get them to memorize what appear to be abstract facts without any context. As Greg Milo wrote in his book Rebooting Social Studies: Strategies for Reimagining History Class , “memorizing names or dates or anything isn’t very motivating for most people.”
“Technology, robotics, information technology and the predominance of the audiovisual demand we adapt to new generations for whom images are paramount,” explained Carmen Alcalde, the founder of Ciudades en Juego , which produces educational card games from her base camp in Madrid. “Hence, teachers and educational professionals have had to come up with new and better ways to communicate their increasingly demanding students.”
The House of Habsburg card game set. ( Ciudades en Juego )
Card Games to Learn about the Spanish Monarchy
In the spirit of educational card games such as History Heroes from the United Kingdom or Timeline which is produced in France, Ciudades en Juego creates educational card games related to Spanish history with a particular emphasis on the Spanish monarchy across the ages. They offer different packs such as Royal Spanish Couples, the Seven Royal Families of Spain and the Spanish Golden Age of Madrid. They also offer packs dedicated to particular dynasties, such as the House of Trastámara or the House of Habsburg .
Often, when faced with learning about history, it’s difficult to understand the stories because of a lack of familiarity with the names of the characters that feature in the different stories. Reducing the complexity of power games, to a series of dates and battles can suck the meaning out of any in depth understanding of past events. These games can help players gain knowledge of the characters and a fluency with the historical basics, all the way up to King Juan Carlos I who abdicated as recently as 2014.
“Our card games allow people to interact, sharing knowledge in an experiential way, like you do with a journey,” she highlights, when discussing these intergenerational card game. This in turn can help foster a lifelong love of history and a fascination for trying to go on to understand why these things have occurred. The cards themselves feature unique designs and illustrations from artists such as Eulalia Ospina Uribe, Arturo Redondo and José Ramón Almeida Olmedo.
The objective of these sets is either to join pairs of cards, to create families or to use them as a memory game. The website also includes a set of classroom resources which have been created in collaboration with teachers and education professionals.
The Al-Andalus card game explores the history of Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula. ( Ciudades en Juego )
Learning About Al-Andalus with Playing Cards
Ciudades en Juego has even produced a pack dedicated exclusively to the characters of Al-Andalus, the period of Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula, from their arrival to power in 711 up until the last Nasrid King Boabdil, who was defeated by the Catholic Kings at Granada in 1492. The aim of the game is to complete one or more of the families, the winner being the one to complete the largest number of families.
Besides introducing players to the key characters of of the era, such as the poetess Wallada, daughter of the Caliph Muhammad III al Mustakfi bi-llah, the Al-Andalus set gives some context, presenting key locations associated with Muslim rule, such as the Giralda in Seville, the minaret of the first great mosque of the Almohad capital built between 1172 and 1198 and the Alhambra of Granada, the 11th century walled palace city that served as the capital of the Taifa of Ziri Dynasty and now one of the most fascinating examples of Islamic architecture in Europe.
From Cordoba, there are also cards dedicated to Medina Azahara, whose construction began in 940 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site , and the famed Great Mosque of Cordoba, known as the Mezquita, whose construction began in 785 and which was later converted into a cathedral. The Al-Andalus set includes images on one side, and on the other descriptions in Arabic, English and in Spanish, making this a fantastic teaching tool for speakers of any of the three languages.
Front and back of the card depicting the Giralda in Seville, as part of the Al-Andalus pack. ( Ciudades en Juego )
More about the Ciudades en Juego Card Games
For sale on the Ciudades en Juego website and in all the royal palaces and royal monasteries in Spain, including the Royal Palace of Madrid and the Alcázar of Seville , and used as educational tool in schools throughout the country, Ciudades en Juego is continuing to create new products and teaching materials. While some of their sets are already available in English, they are currently translating their set called 7 Spanish Royal Families which is currently their bestseller.
In some sets they’ve added novel elements, such as backwards text which needs to be read with a mirror card provided within the set, an aspect used in the Spanish Golden Age of Madrid pack. They are now also working on flash cards, and offer free materials such as posters, royal family trees, themed maps and teaching guides for historic sites such as the Alhambra in Granada and the bullring in Ronda, located in southern Spain.
Top image: Illustration of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castille, who feature in one of the card games. Source: Ciudades en Juego
By Cecilia Bogaard