Our Games Count! program addresses the escalating feedback loop between poverty and poor decision making. Our students come to see their options and to make good decisions by learning and playing a variety of European boardgames . They exercise resource and risk management and think strategically while mastering complex rules and instructions. When played in a polite and social context, games act as a training ground for making wise, strategic, and beneficial decisions in real life.
While playing European board games, the students learn skills that will prepare them to engage with greater interest in their classroom lessons. The first game we teach is Carcassone, in which the players lay down tiles to make a river and then proceed to line the river bank with cities, roads and farms. Through the act of map making, the students learn to understand how civilizations grow and develop. This is an excellent foundation for the study of history, geography and various cultures. Other games expose the students to specific historical periods and geographical settings. Careful reading of rules and instructions and mental arithmetic become second nature in the context of board games.
The games are played in groups of 2-6 players. The students help each other understand the rules, and learn from each other's errors and successes. The games can be played competitively or cooperatively. The students exercise good manners, fair play, reciprocity, patience and understanding. Students learning English acquire new vocabulary and confidence in speaking within a small group.
Almost all of the students in our classes have never played a European board game. Students must follow rules carefully, and think for themselves. Resource management, good timing of right action, and taking other players into consideration are key.
Games teach students a new way to learn. For example, the 4 players of Tigris and Euphrates act as Mesopotamian dynasts, developing and expanding their empires on the banks of the two rivers, by means of farms, markets, temples and settlements. The winning player has the most balanced and extensive portfolio. Rather than condemning the dynasts for their grand imperial ambitions, the players come to understand how the dynasts experienced their world.
The lessons of resource and risk management, understanding foreign cultures, role playing and polite competition and cooperation all combine to create an excellent foundation for learning of all kinds.