Students from the Arthur Morgan School in Celo and Rainbow Mountain Children’s School in Asheville participated in the beta test of a new educational game called Earth Voyage at YMCA’s Blue Ridge Assembly on May 17. (See “From Hawaii to Paradox to Haywood Road,” May 16 Xpress for background.)
The idea for the game grew out of the late Buckminster Fuller‘s World Game, which engaged college students and policy-makers in positing solutions to global problems that could be beneficial to everyone on the planet, and more directly out of the Design Science Lab conducted in Asheville last summer.
“This pilot program is focused on the hydrosphere,” explained Marnie Muller, one of three co-creators of Earth Voyage. “Later we will take up the atmosphere and soil.”
Fifty-some middle-school-level students kicked off their shoes and spread out on a gymnasium-size map of the world created by Fuller. Divided into teams, participants examined the water resources available, water use, pollution and human population of each geographic region and used the information to consider water-use issues on a local as well as global level.
Along the way, they learned that the total amount of water on earth has remained essentially the same for hundreds of centuries, that 97.2 percent of water is salty and that a huge proportion is locked up as ice. Using swimming-pool noodles and vertical dowel rods, participants created 3-D bar graphs illustrating various aspects of the water cycle and human use.
The overall goal of the program is to stir excitement about learning, to make the sometimes-dull numbers associated with science come to life and to inspire students to learn more. Muller said, “A survey by the American Association for the Advancement of Science found that most Americans only have a fifth-grade-level awareness of science, so we felt that a program targeted for middle-school students addressed the problem at the right time in students’ schooling.”
Suzanne Watson, another co-creator of the project, said the organizers want to expand the program to all of the middle-school students in WNC and then the state. “And we’re going to have an interactive Web site so students who have participated can continue to interact in the future,” she added. “We also want to stage the game on weekends so students can bring their families to join in.”
The winners of the game are awarded cash prizes redeemable as gifts to Run for Africa (a Barnardsville-based nonprofit organization that supports clean-water programs in African villages). “That way we connect doing something to the problems they have learned about by playing the game,” says Will Harwood, a Rainbow Mountain teacher who helped develop the game.
After the beta test, Rainbow Mountain student participants (who also helped create the game) will submit evaluations that will help shape the next round.
— Cecil Bothwell, staff writer