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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Grad student shakes up curriculum

 
 

Abby Perkins, curriculum and instruction graduate student, came up with an idea to teach children about earthquakes and their effects in a fun, new way – with a board game.
Perkins said the idea for the game, simply titled “Earthquake,” was born while she and her advisor, Carol Stuessy, were developing a week-long teacher workshop in the summer of 2012. She said they wanted to have a game for the teachers to play during the workshop.
“The workshop was for earthquake engineering and the infrastructure associated with disasters,” Perkins said. “We decided to develop this game and we didn’t really know what we were doing, so we just started from scratch with basic research and development.”
Perkins said the game allows kids to improve their cognitive skills and break away from the “daily rat race” our society typically displays.
“We get up, we go to work, we go home, we have this ritualized pattern and you’re tired and then you die,” Perkins said. “We don’t sit back and have fun and think ‘I’m not going to worry about what time it is, who is calling me right now, how many emails I haven’t answered. I’m just going to go to this magical place in my mind and just go to some imaginary place.’ I think that’s missing.”
Perkins said an entire year was spent gathering focus groups to test and develop the game.
“Within that year, we started from nothing [and got] to a functional prototype and that prototype was what went into the teacher workshop,” she said.
The teachers tested the game and were interviewed to see how they liked it, Perkins said, so the game could be improved and eventually be used in other contexts.
“We changed the game from the interviews and then came up with a final game that high school students tested and we are now in the process of analyzing how those high school students play the game,” she said.
The final game is designed to be played by four different groups of three to six people, each group with their own board, that are competing against each other. At the end of the roughly two hours it takes to play the game, the group with the most “people points” wins.
“Within each group, the players are collaborating together, functioning as a city council team to build a city that is inhabitable as well as resilient when an earthquake comes,” Perkins said. “Each game group is competing against the other game group so there’s a collaborative aspect as well as a competitive aspect.”
Stuessy, education and human development professor, said she aided Perkins in creating the game and thought it would be a clever, non-traditional way to reach kids.
“I felt we should make it a board game to encourage collaboration and communication among students,” Stuessy said. “A lot of kids today play online games and they don’t have to talk to anybody or make decisions with anybody, they just play it by themselves. We developed this game as a way for kids to talk with each other and learn about earthquake engineering.”
Stuessy said she thought the game was important for young students because they are usually unaware of all that goes in to building in an earthquake-prone area.
“I think it’s very difficult, particularly for inexperienced students, to understand a system as complex as earthquake engineering,” she said. “This was to enable them to have a first-hand experience with all of the systems interacting with each other in a non-threatening, non-instructional type of environment.”
Perkins said she really doesn’t what the next steps for the game are, but has already received emails from teachers wanting the game in their classrooms. Perkins said she has also received ideas of making a digital version of the game or putting it onto store shelves and hopes to see it mass produced and marketed as a game for families.
“I’ve had lots of people who want the game,” she said. “I’m just finishing my dissertation right now -which is on the research and development of the game. I don’t know if I need to start a company, but there is definitely a demand. People are coming to us, wanting it.”

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