This is not an arts and craft lesson.

And the above are not origami stars.

This lesson illuminates the ideas that herald and hallmark any great civilisation on earth: surplus of food, division and specialisation of labour, trade, alliances and sophisticated arts.

In absolute, painful silence, student groups pit each other in a competition for the number of ‘stars’ they can create from origami ‘spikes’. Groups are awarded by the both the quality and quantity of the stars, which in order to be created, require groups to acquire enough “pumpkin cut-outs”. Surplus of food. Groups are also given exclusive items, some glue, and others coloured markers. Let the games begin!


As groups proceeded, they discovered that it would be more efficient if one person specialised in one single aspect of the task: folding, joining, colouring, or cutting. Division and specialisation of labour.

Ambition then set in. Eyeing the adjacent groups’ precious exclusive items – glue or markers – teams began sending emissaries to request for an exchange of products to bring their own ‘stars’ to the next level of awesomeness. Trade.


At the halfway marked, an announcement: “You will now join forces! Two groups merge into one. Four groups will now be two!” With this merger, some prevailed, increasing their production; some faltered, crumbling under their civil disputes. Alliances.

In the end, the winning groups with numerous brilliantly decorated stars were ones that could deploy their members to their strengths, trade efficiently with other groups, and create effective alliances with others.

Much like the great civilisations of millennia past.

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