About

Mr. Harms

About the Founder

& His Journey

Mr. David Harms is the creator of HistorySimulation.com and the owner of Harms LLC. He has also been a history teacher and coach for over 26 years. He has the most content to support history teachers on the internet that he knows of. Let’s read our founder’s story to get to know him better.

My Teaching Story

My name is David Harms, and I am social studies teacher. When I graduated from high school and started at Ellsworth Community College, I first thought about becoming a PE teacher. After taking a couple of history classes for general education, I became fascinated with why history happened the way it did.

When I transferred to The University of Northern Iowa, I started working toward a major history teaching education. I also minored in political science and athletic coaching.

Experience with WWI History Simulation

Before graduating from the University of Northern Iowa in 1992, I did my student teaching as a social studies teacher in Forest City, Iowa- under History teacher-Bob Hilmer.

Bob introduced me to a simple history simulation of how World War 1 got started. Six fictitious countries represented the major powers at the start of World War I.

  • Penland: Germany
  • Sandia: Russia
  • Caldonia: Great Britain
  • Yorkton: France
  • Bahkan: Serbia
  • Morovia: Austria-Hungary

A crisis develops between Balkan and Poland, which leads to students negotiating and either declaring war or making peace.

I was so impressed by the engagement of this activity I created. I felt students were experiencing history rather than just memorizing facts and dates. This completely changed how I wanted to teach history.

The Journey of a Full-time Teacher

After I graduated, I found the market for social studies teachers was saturated. Hundreds of applications for each position made it very difficult to find a job. In my first year, I taught in six or seven local school districts, including my high school: Alden Community. To be honest, I wanted more than anything to teach and coach in my hometown.

My first contract was a ¼ time position, teaching history and assistant varsity football. The next year I was ½ time, then ¾ time the third year, and by year four, I was finally a full-time teacher. At one point, I was Head Varsity: Football, Wrestling, and Track & Field.

Mr. Harms and a Student
Mr. Harms and a Student

My Simulation Experiment and the Launch of HistorySimulation.com (TM)

I started implementing that simulation in my own classroom. After a while, we started adding armies, conducting battles, which lead to students developing strategies. The question then became: Why not use all the real countries, using maps that include: seas, oceans, armies, and navies. To keep this a legitimate simulation, I added objectives for each country: the top-secret documents.

In the early days, everything was built on word documents I had created, including the map. I found that students knew every country, sea, and ocean’s location because they studied their maps and developed their strategy.

When students were seen running down the hall to get to class first to declare war, talking non-stop about it in other classes, and sitting together at lunch based on their alliances- I knew something special was happening. Kids were complaining that the class period is going by too fast!

As the teacher, I was busy non-stop: calculating battles on the spreadsheet, talking with leaders and foreign ministers, it was exhausting, but I loved how engaged the students were.

My principal encouraged me to share what I was doing with other teachers, and that’s when I started HistorySimulation.com.

Expanding Simulations Online

The next step was creating online platforms for these simulations. A friend of mine, with a lot of connections in the programming world, said that these programmers often take side projects to increase their income. I found one and later another who believed in what I was doing, which was a game-changer. Instead of entering tons of numbers into a spreadsheet, you just drag and click, and the battle is over. This allows more time to watch what is going on and enjoy seeing students’ interaction through diplomacy and negotiating.

These simulations directly affect student’s interest in the topics focused on in simulations like:

Students are excited to learn and compare their actions with the leaders and get motivation.