Shingle: Booneville Middle School
Head: "Our Endangered Earth"
Deck: Student-designed board game to be distributed state-wide
DATE MAY BE INCORRECT
By Monique Harrison
BOONEVILLE - An environmental science unit taught last year at Booneville Middle School left some students in Tammy Mauney's seventh and eighth-grade classes concerned.
"I learned a lot about recycling - about pollution and the need to recycle," said 13-year-old Krista Bishop. "It made me think. But, I don't think most people really think much about the environment. They don't understand how serious some of our problems are - how important this all is."
That concern over what students see as the need to educate others about environmental issues prompted them to design a monopoly-style board game.
"This game is written to teach all of the environmental science objectives," said Mauney, referring to student learning objectives outlined by the State Department of Education. "It seems like a simple concept, but children are learning while they are playing the game."
How to play
Like in Monopoly, the objective of the "Our Endangered Earth" game is to finish with the most paper money. Players earn money by rolling dice and making their way around the colorful game board.
Each square on the board includes instructions. For example, the player may land on a square that says "You are caught throwing fast food trash out of your car window. Pay $200."
Players receive play money for landing on squares with pro-environmental activities. For example, a player receives $200 for landing on the square that says, "You help to start a recycling program at your school."
Players who land on squares marked with a question mark must answer a question. All questions are open-ended, requiring players to explain a process. For example, one question asks, "Explain why some bugs are good."
Other players vote on the accuracy of the respondent's answer.
"If the other players agree that the question has been answered sufficiently, they are given credit for it," Mauney explained.
Developing the game
Seventh-graders were primarily responsible for the game's artwork. Mauney posted a list of pictures that would be needed for the game, and students were allowed to select the picture they wanted to draw.
"We picked the best pictures, looking at ... how they fit the sentence that would go in that box," said 13-year-old Dusty Holcomb, who is now in eighth-grade. "You had to think about what you wanted to draw."
Eighth-grade students were responsible for writing the game's questions.
"The hardest thing for them in writing the questions was avoiding the technical terms," Mauney said. "We had a team of editors that worked to simplify the questions and make them easier for everyone to understand. We wanted this game to be designed with middle school students in mind, but a good reader who was in second-grade could probably play the game and have fun with it."
Learning to compromise
Another challenge came in selecting the name of the game. During a brainstorming session, students came up with about 10 possible names. Losing names included "Nitty Gritty Earth Game" and "Environmental Affairs."
"Environmental Affairs' didn't make the cut because a lot of the boys thought it sounded like one of those games for teenage girls," Mauney said, laughing. "The students had to learn about compromise. They weren't all happy about the choice, but they had to find a title they could all live with. That process was a learning experience in itself."
This month, the school received its first copy of the game, which was printed by a local printing company.
"Like something you could buy in the store"
Several students said they were surprised at how the game looked.
"When we sent it out, we had a draft of it laminated," said 13-year-old Seth Pounds. "I didn't really realize it would look this good."
"It looks like something you could buy in the store - like something you could walk into Wal-Mart and buy off the shelf," Holcomb added.
Although Wal-Mart hasn't been contracted to sell the games, it will be marketed statewide as part of the State Department of Education's Learn and Serve program.
Each Mississippi school district will receive a copy of the game. Each of the nation's 52 Learn and Serve programs will also receive a copy of the game. Learn and Serve is a federally-funded program designed to foster partnerships between private and public sectors. Its ultimate goal is to increase the amount of out-of-classroom learning done by students.
Program officials, who provided the $4,600 in grant money needed for the project, are currently working to obtain a copyright for the game.
If that copyright is received, there's a chance the game could be marketed to the general public.
"A lot of people could be playing this game, so that's neat," said 13-year-old Kaycee Roper.
Mississippi Learn and Serve coordinator Bob Lord said the game caught his department's attention for several reasons.