Get in the Game

The If/Then Collection is all about featuring women in STEM. If you teach or you’re a parent, I highly recommend doing a deep dive into all of the materials offered on this site, including profiles of female scientists in various fields like sports and entertainment, videos, posters, and toolkits. I saw the “Get in the Game” resources, and wanted to share them since I mentioned the Game Design Contest from Google Play yesterday. According to the site, “Get in the Game is an “unplugged” activity–exploring concept usually associated with programming and computer science without the use of a computer.  The Tech Interactive Museum in San Jose presents six activity videos featuring AAAS IF/THEN® Ambassador Dr. Siobahn Day Grady where students design their own board games and learn how Dr. Grady applies computational thinking skills as a computer scientist researching autonomous vehicles.” Although this activity focuses on designing a board game, it would be a great jumping-off point for anyone interested in the Google Play contest, or who are just looking for engaging activities during the next couple of months.

Interested in the idea of using Design Thinking in your classroom, but not quite sure how to do it? I will be live on Facebook on June 14th to talk about Design Thinking (which comes in handy for game design and lots of other subjects!). You can find info on how to join us here.

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Be a Game Changer!

Do you have students (or children) who are 13-18 years of age, live in the United States or Canada (except Quebec, sorry!), and who have great ideas for video games? If so, they have until July 31, 2021, to enter Google Play’s “Change the Game” Design Contest. They do not have to know how to code in order to enter, as you can see from the online form. Judges will be looking at entries as they are submitted to select 100 people to participate in an online workshop where they will learn how to make real games, and receive a certificate and Chromebook if they complete the course. You can get more information and some guiding questions to inspire participants here.

And, don’t forget, I will be live on Facebook on June 14th to talk about Design Thinking (which comes in handy for game design and lots of other subjects!). If you missed my blog post giving you the scoop on this event, you can read all about it here.

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Spintronics

Way back in 2017, I blogged about a new project I had backed on Kickstarter called Turing Tumble. The game is a mechanical version of a computer, and includes a book with stories and challenges that slowly scaffold the working parts of computers. My students and I liked it so much that I reviewed it on the blog and recommended for my Gifts for the Gifted list in 2018.

Paul Boswell, inventor of Turing Tumble, has a new venture on Kickstarter. The project is called Spintronics, and it is designed to help children (and adults) to learn how electronics work by building mechanical circuits. Like Turing Tumble, Spintronics includes a book of stories and challenges. Without having to risk hot soldering irons or engage in complicated mathematical equations, students can learn the basics and vocabulary of electronics as they build, experiment, and play.

I literally received the e-mail announcing the beginning of the Kickstarter today, and Spintronics is already fully funded – more than 5 times over! So, the good news is that you should be able to receive a kit if you back it. The downside is that you will need to wait until January, 2022, to start playing the game. However, as I learned with Turing Tumble, it is sure to be worth the wait!

PlayForge

My family and I recently took a trip to Colorado. On our way to our VRBO in Colorado Springs, we stopped in the lovely town of Littleton. Walking down Main Street, we saw many fun shops and boutiques, but it was a Monday and several were closed. I was drawn to one sign, “PlayForge,” and peeked in the windows to see a darkened shop that seemed to sell board games. Disappointed the store wasn’t open, I continued walking down the street, but I kept glancing back.

The next morning, I was doing my daily scan of my Twitter feed, and couldn’t believe the second Tweet that I read was about PlayForge. (Knowing the far reach of social media these days, I suppose I should not have been surprised.) The Tweet was from one of the owners, Jesse Stommel (@Jessifer), and I realized I was going to have to return to Littleton to visit this amazing space. PlayForge had only recently opened, and it seems my initial attraction to the spot was more intuitive than I had realized.

You see, Jesse Stommel is an educator. He and his husband opened PlayForge as a retail store, but also a makerspace. With their adorable 4-year-old daughter, Hazel, as inspiration, they created a game store where children are welcome, and they will eventually be offering classes on game design where kids and families can make products using the store’s 3d printers, laser cutters, vinyl cutter, and other tools.

At PlayForge, you can find games for all ages, a classroom area with tables and a giant digital screen, and a room with accordion doors that can open out to the sidewalk so making can happen for everyone to see. Families will absolutely adore this unique business. Jesse, co-author of An Urgency of Teachers, and an experienced educator, is committed to helping children to love playing and making games.

So, yes, we made it back to Littleton on a day the store was open, and I got to meet the family and get a tour. We bought a couple of games that I thought I might be able to fit in my suitcase, and Hazel the Store Manager took a break from her jigsaw puzzle to scan them for us at the checkout.

If you live in Littleton, you should treat yourself by visiting PlayForge at 2420 W Main St. in Old Town Littleton, CO. You can find store hours and contact info here. You can also follow them on Twitter @PlayForgeGames. You can also listen to an 8-minute interview with Jesse and @reddy2go about the store here.

If you live in San Antonio… hey we need a place like this! I don’t have any money to invest, but I would be a great consultant and maker space teacher!

Poison Pudding

Today’s post was inspired by a question from a reader from Denali Montessori Elementary. She mentioned a game that they play in their GT classroom called, “Poison Pudding.” This is how she describes the game: “I set up a course on the floor with a duct-taped grid on top of a tablecloth. The kids try and figure out the course one by one by stepping on squares. If they stepped correctly, they get another turn. If not, they go to the end and the next person goes and so on until they have figured out the course.”

She asked if I knew of any other movement games for GT, and I could not think of any, other than unplugged coding activities or The Human Knot (which is used a lot in teambuilding activities). I could see some of these ideas from Cult of Pedagogy being implemented in a GT classroom, but I was wondering if you, the reader, have any other suggestions. If you do, please comment on this post or e-mail me at engagetheirminds@gmail.com. If I get more than a few recommendations, I will compile them into a new post to share with everyone. In the meantime, try “Poison Pudding”! It sounds like a great memory challenge!

Image by Eluj from Pixabay

Don’t Gross Out the World is Back!

When I had the good fortune to win a grant to visit Japan about 20 years ago, I received a packet of etiquette rules to study before the trip. One that was firmly lodged in my mind was to never leave chopsticks standing up in your food, as this is a ceremonial act seen at Buddhist funerals. I’m still conscientious about this decades later, and it was one of the many things I learned that serve as a reminder how easily we can offend people if we don’t take time to get to know what is important to them. I wish that every person could go on a trip to a foreign country to give us this perspective, but in the absence of that kind of experience it is fun and important for students to learn about diversity in cultures around the world. Way back in 2016, I wrote about an online quiz called, “Don’t Gross Out the World.” Players could learn about food traditions that might seem strange in their native country but are the norm elsewhere. At one point, the game disappeared and I updated my post with a link to a video of someone playing the game instead. However, FunBrain just commented on that post yesterday that they have brought the quiz back. I updated that post, but here is the new link in case you don’t have a habit of reading my blog articles from 5 years ago. Your students will enjoy guessing the answers, and you might learn a few new things – as I have whenever I play!

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