Save the Plant Board Game Rules Document
Project Files: rules-template.pdf & Design Document
Class: EDTEC 670
The environment is in a dire state. In fact, as we were finishing this project, hundreds of world leaders were heading to Copenhagen to discuss solutions for solving the climate crisis. While policies, laws, and standards are useful ways to save the planet, my teammates and I wanted to give students a personal way to make a difference. For EDTEC 670, I teamed up with Felicia Brown and Sun-ah Kwon to design, “Save the Planet,” a board game that would give high school and college students an opportunity to extend their knowledge of environmental science and establish effective “personal, practical, and positive (PPP)” environmental actions that can ultimately help human populations/societies achieve environmental sustainability on Earth. We used the design document template provided by our professor, Bernie Dodge, Ph.D., to determine all of the tasks we would need to put together an entire board game. My teammates took responsibility for the design and research of the 100 game cards, while I was in charge of designing the board game and writing the game rules.
Writing the game rules was an intensive and iterative process. Since I was also responsible for writing the Content Analysis section of the design document, I had a good idea about the facts, concepts, procedures, and principles that would be learned while playing the game. I also wrote the probabilities, vantage points, and context sections. Writing the Content Analysis required me to try many different versions of the game in my head to see which one would work best. This gave me a good idea of how the game would be played and what rules were needed.
Although I had met with my teammates a few times, we never discussed the specific game rules (just the general concept). So I gave it my best try and wrote out a detailed rules document. My teammates provided valuable feedback, which helped me improve the rules. We then presented our game concept, designs, and rules to Karl Richter. Karl helped us develop the eloquence of the board game by adding more probability (i.e., more than one team can play on the same route) and changing the chance cards to “Recycle Bin” cards with more personal actions. I went back and revised the document again. Felicia then playtested the game with her AP Environmental Science students and sent me a list of additional revisions for the rules. Finally, Bernie challenged us to add an element of speed to the game to keep the interest of all of the players. All in all, I revised the rules document well over fifteen times. I was very grateful for all of the feedback because when I read the rules, they made sense to me. However, I learned that people playing the game for the first time would need even clearer directions – everything had to be spelled out step by step. Developing clear and useful rules that covered all possible questions about how to play the game was a long process of change, design, development, and learning.
Problems and Opportunities:
The biggest problem was the limited timeframe. Although my teammates and I accomplished what we wanted with our board game, I wish we had more time to playtest with additional audiences. After the semester ended, I purchased the board game from The Game Crafter and played it with my family. There were a few things left out of the rules document (i.e., after the group play option, which player’s turn was it?). However, the majority of the issues that came up were easily solved because we decided as a group how to continue play. I actually enjoyed the idea of having the group come up with and agree upon new rules. Although, my goal was to produce a polished rules document that covered everything.
On a positive note, my dad, who is an AP Environmental Science teacher, enjoyed the game so much that he is working on getting a grant to buy many copies of the board game to have in the science classes at his high school.
Designing and developing a board game from scratch was a process in and of itself. However, being responsible for the rules document helped me learn the value of soliciting feedback from as many people as possible. Growing up with teachers that valued subjective grading instead of objective grading (such as standards), I was used to turning in a final project, receiving a grade, and receiving feedback well after the grade was given (with no opportunity to improve the project and my grade). Therefore, I was not used to the iterative process of writing, testing, writing, soliciting feedback, writing, etc… With each new piece of feedback, the rules improved significantly. Learning this process was a valuable lesson and I have already applied it to my profession. In fact, I most recently used this process to write my statement of purpose for graduate schools. I revised my eight-page statement for the Harvard Doctor of Education Leadership program at least ten times. Every time I finished I thought I had the best statement of purpose yet. Then I would solicit more feedback and find even more ways to improve the paper. I believe that the two keys things I learned from this process were to receive as much feedback as possible and know when to stop the process (otherwise I might not ever finish a project).
Field of Educational Technology:
Ultimately, I would like to conduct research that measures how technology can supplement education by increasing the number of subjects students learn and helping students develop valuable life skills. The education system in the United States is not providing students with enough opportunities to learn. As a result of No Child Left Behind and the Race to the Top Federal Stimulus Funding, teachers are spending more time focusing on reading and math to help their students improve their test scores. The Center for Education Policy surveyed many school districts in 2007 and found that the districts were cutting social studies, science, art, music, and physical education to make more time for math and reading. While No Child Left Behind may have decreased the achievement gap in math and reading for disadvantaged students, it widened the gap in important skills such as social responsibility, critical thinking, and creativity (McMurrer, 2007, 2008).
Students are growing up with computers, blackberrys, iPods, video games, and many other learning and communication technologies. These tools can be used to improve knowledge and motivation to learn. For example, the online McDonald’s Video Game, developed by a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, is a fun, interactive, and engaging game that also teaches players about environmental destruction, corporate greed, unhealthy production practices, and economics. One of my career goals is to design educational games that motivate students to learn, while also providing them with important life skills, so that when they are put in a position to lead or make a difference, they have the confidence and knowledge to do that. I believe that the processes I learned in the EDTEC 670: Exploratory Learning Through Simulations and Games will help me achieve this goal.
McMurrer, J. (2007). Choices, changes, and challenges: Curriculum and instruction in the NCLB era. Washington, DC: Center on Education Policy.
McMurrer, J. (2008). Instructional time in elementary schools: A closer look at changes in specific subjects. Washington, DC: Center on Education Policy.