Brian Mayer and Christopher Harris are advocates as well and just published a book: Libraries Got Game: Aligned Learning Through Modern Board Games.
Brian and Chris, love your book, tell us about the importance of play in the classroom and in libraries.
Over the last few years we have learned so much about the possibilities that modern board games provide as a resource for the classroom and libraries. Now these are not the traditional games typically found on the shelves of toy stores. They have come about from a renaissance in board games that started in Europe in the mid to late 80's, where game designers began exploring more complex, engaging mechanics and themes. What we have found is that in addition to being fun, these games address the learning needs of students, serving as differentiated instructional tools and providing context and meaning for the skills and content necessary for success in the classroom.
Why do these modern board games work so well? Well, students are gamers. Pew Internet Research let us know that 97% of teens in the U.S. play games. This means a common shared experience and reference point for educators and students. Add to this the built in learning structures that these games have refined and the authenticity of the experience itself and you are left with a powerful learning tool that can help students make meaningful connections with the curriculum.
Traditional American board games generally work by player elimination which can spell trouble from a classroom management standpoint. Today's modern board games feature game mechanics that will often keep all of the players engaged until game's end. They also tend to run much shorter than the marathon games of Risk and Monopoly that we know, so they are easier to implement within the constraints of an educator's schedule.
But what I love best is how board games work across both grade and ability levels. We use titles that range from HABA's Orchard that helps develop color recognition, sharing and teamwork in the very youngest of students to more intricate and sophisticated games such as Rio Grande's Power Grid that present the inseparable connections that economics and energy choice have with each other. Many games are also language independent and while language may be absent, the level of engagement and challenge is still exceedingly high. This allows ESL students and others building their language skills to participate with their peers and interact with the curriculum with the same level of challenge and reward.
Thank you, Brian and Chris. I look forward to the day that our kids bring home games for homework!