The Covid-19 crisis didn't stop the IAUNRC's annual Mongol Invasion activity with Central Middle School students in Columbus, Indiana this year. The goal of the annual event is to give students the opportunity to learn about Mongolian history and culture through hands-on activities and interactive presentations. In past years, the school's entire seventh grade class would “invade” the IU Bloomington campus where they would participate in events such as a map challenge, fortune telling and other games played with Mongolian shagai (sheep knucklebones), and the chance to take pictures with authentic Mongolian apparel. When contacted by the IAUNRC about doing the Mongol Conquest again this year, the Central Middle School teachers were excited. Both IAUNRC staff and the teachers, however, knew they would have to be creative; IU Bloomington would not be available to host the students and Columbus Middle School was operating on a hybrid schedule.
After several back-and-forth emails and a productive Zoom meeting, both the teachers and two CEUS graduate students, Anton Ermakov and Corrina Fuller, agreed that it was feasible to have the Mongol Conquest happen in a virtual format. It was decided that both Anton and Corrina would give presentations via Zoom over the course of several days so that no seventh grader would miss the chance to participate. Corrina's presentation gave an overview of Mongolian culture with a focus on holidays, and Anton's presentation introduced students to nomadic pastoralism and the Mongolian landscape. "I was happy to have the opportunity to reach a broader audience," said Anton.
The Mongol invasion didn't end when students signed out of Zoom, however. To counterbalance the lack of engaging hands-on activities the event normally includes, the IAUNRC emailed the teachers two craft activity packs to distribute to their students. The activity packs, (also found on the IAUNRC website) provided students with instructions and cut-outs to make their very own paper Mongolian ger (yurt) and Mongolian Shagai Games. Each student was able to download the activity pack from the comfort and safety of their own home. The IAUNRC also hand-delivered both the center's model yurt and an assortment of Mongolian artifacts and clothing to the school. Hopefully next year, the Central Middle School students will have the opportunity to invade the IU Bloomington campus by bus once again!