Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Solving World Hunger

Yesterday morning, I made it to work and saw that the Jr. High teacher I took over for on Friday had made it back to work.  I'll admit, I was a little sad.  Not that he was back, but that I wasn't going to get to teach Jr. High all day long.

But, I wondered how much he'd be able to do with them being that he was walking around on crutches - so I asked him if he wanted to switch with me.  He could take my elementary kids and I would take Jr. High.

He was a little hesitant, but finally agreed to let me have them.

All weekend, I'd been thinking about what I'd do with the kids if I had to take over for the last week.  I didn't have the supplies to perform experiments or do any kind of scientific study.  Then, Sunday night while trying to go to sleep, I got a flash of an idea that popped in to my head.  I didn't know if it would work... but I thought I would run with it yesterday and see what happened.

In science, before I came along, the kids had been working in an outdoor classroom planting vegetables, learning about planting, soil needs, harvest seasons, etc.  I also know that the kids enjoy competition just as much as I do.

So, I created a game.  It's kinda like a strategic Farmville game.

Each class is a different country competing against each other.  They start the "game" with $5 million and 400 acres.  That's it.  Each country has to elect a President, and then the President creates committees that will be in charge of certain positions (farming, livestock, transportation, harvesting, selling, etc.) 

The object of the game is to be the most lucrative and successful country at the end of the week.  Having the most money and assets.

During this game, I play Queen Mother Earth.  The countries buy from me, they sell to me, and I control all aspects of the game.  Meaning, weather, trade prices, etc.  I can send tornadoes that and hurricanes that wipe out modes of transportation.  I can cast a drought that dries up and kills crops.  I can also send the right weather combination that boosts "super crops".  I can also manipulate and negotiate prices for when they are ready to sell their wares.  All of their supplies come from me.. seeds, animals, transportation, etc.  I gave them a price sheet to start with, and they determine the best way to get off the ground.  Once they start "farming", they can choose to use the crops to sell as they are or make them in to something else.  For example, I heard once class talk about growing corn and wheat and animals so that they can sell foods such as tamales, bread, pies, etc.

The ultimate idea came from a video I watched about a group of kids that worked together to solve the crisis of world hunger.  They were given similar starting tools, and they were to use the land and the money to raise food for third world countries.  

The lessons imbedded in to the games are endless.  While the kids feel like they are just playing a game in order to win...they are also working together as a whole unit, using science, math, social studies, etc.  

When I first explained the game to each class, I was met with some disgruntled groans.  They were expecting to have fun, and didn't expect to actually have to work.  Even when I told them the strategy and the idea of competing against classes, they weren't exactly thrilled.  But, once the President was chosen and he/she started making committees and planning their strategies - I couldn't get them to stop once our time was over.  Every single class asked for "one more minute" so that they could write down just one more thing they needed to take care of when the class met again.

Later that day, at recess, I heard kids asking other kids who the President was in their classes...what types of committees were being formed...basically excited and interested in what was going on.  I also saw a little spying and game play going on.  The kids wanted to know what was going on in other classes so that they could be in the loop for what they were up against.  

All in all...I think that science this week isn't going to be so bad.  When I do something like this, however, I am again sad that I didn't teach the whole summer.  A game like this one could have been awesome having the entire four weeks to play.  I could have brought in the strategy of war, national debt, famine, etc.  But, it's a learning experience.  I know, now.

And I'd much rather walk away wishing that I had taught all 4 weeks than walk away regretting that I had taught at all.

Happy Tuesday!


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