Tabletop games of chemistry are a big hit both in and out of the classroom
Humans have played board games for at most 500 years. Today, academics, teachers and players are interspersing the competitiveness, strategy, and entertainment of tabletop games and science-based knowledge, and introducing new audiences that are learning about chemistry while playing.
Games for children like this one from Science Ninjas, introduce new viewers to the fascinating world of chemical chemistry
Kelly Burleson is a teacher at Dalat International School in Penang, Malaysia. After years of adapting questions on worksheets for her existing games, she’s created an innovative tabletop game to get her students involved on topics like equilibrium.
“We were doing a study on Le Chatelier in the classroom and this workbook was so boring – “shift left to right, shift left, shift left and right” and I was thinking , ” Oh my god … how can they complete all these things and not get bored?’ The answer of Burleson was to create a game for the board in which students have to move counters between the ‘products’ and reactants’ side board as quickly as they can. It also introduces additional chemical concepts. For instance students roll an amount on their dice which corresponds to the energy for activation of a specific reaction in order to begin the game.
Fun learning that makes learning enjoyable
Burleson has discovered that the games are beneficial for all levels of students and ages, but especially for those who don’t have the motivation to pursue chemistry.
Michelle Joyce, a PhD student in STEM Education from the University of Florida, shared similar experiences with her fellow students in the classroom of a high school. With her coworkers she implemented a theme approach to chemistry that was based on students who did not plan to pursue science in the future after high school. The first task was to design their own games that incorporated chemistry. to be assessed at the end students scored each other’s games on the basis of how educational and enjoyable Chemistry games they had.
It is a fact that not all students are likely to study science as part of their education as suggested by Joyce. It was the idea that they would gain an understanding of science that could be used in the context of environmental issues as well as in the home economics sense and also in a “citizen science’ sense. This way, when they read a newspaper article or watch some news story … they’re able to have an understanding of the language.’
Chemistry and board games = plenty of amusement
Even those who decide to pursue science further in their education could benefit from board games like John Coveyou did while teaching chemistry part-time at a community college. My students were already overwhelmed by many concepts prior to coming into class,’ Coveyou says. Even the most basic concepts like the charge of a specific particle … At the same time, my friends who were my students were engaging in games, and reciting irrelevant information about the worlds of sci-fi and fantasy that weren’t actually real and I wondered what could I do to inspire my students to become engaged with new concepts similarly do they?’
In the wake of this, Coveyou started to develop games that would make his students feel more confident in the basic concepts of chemical concepts. The company he established, Genius Games, has recently released several scientifically accurate games which involve experiments based on chemical concepts like building atoms or studying the periodic table.
Games can also be used to engage young children in chemistry. Rowan Clark originally created the game with cards ‘Elementals unleashed to be an Xmas present for her sister and brother However, her colleagues at the University of Edinburgh, UK recognized the potential of this game as a tool to help primary schools reach out. It introduces elements in the form of characters whose character is a reflection of their chemical characteristics. I was talking to someone from my team about how fluorine’s like this punk-like teenager, and iodine’s like the slow, gentle grandpa. And the idea just grew from there,’ says Clark.
Clark’s illustrations are graphically attractive, which is important for children to be able to see as the cartoonist Nathan Schreiber from science game and graphic novel firm Science Ninjas explains that if it looks like oatmeal, children do not want to consume it. According to Schreiber who co-created the chemistry-themed game Valence along with fellow Ninjas Amanda Simson and Naomi Klinghoffer the majority of educational products appear like educational products. In order to appeal to youngsters, especially those who aren’t chemical enthusiasts, it’s essential to maintain a high amount of shine’.
Tabletop games also give players the chance to consider larger social issues such as climate change. Along with his coworkers, Sam Illingworth, the co-director and co-founder of the Manchester game studies network recently came up with a global warming extension kit to the wildly popular table game Catan. He’s set to introduce a brand new game called ‘Carbon City zero’ in conjunction with the charity 10:10 for climate change where each participant assumes the role of mayor. The winner is the first one to create a carbon-neutral city.
Illingworth is an instructor of senior level in the field of science communications from Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, believes that the interaction between people that is required by tabletop games could be more effective than computer games to create dialog around specific topics in science. Additionally physical games possess a touch – similar to rolling dice – that’s not evident with video game. They are easily altered, meaning you can purchase an off the tabletop game where you can experiment with the rules with just paper and a pen … and [playingis creating a space in which people can physically interact with each other.’