From Idea To Event
by Randy Compton
Barbara Mehler got creative at her elementary school. As the media specialist for the school, she wanted to support their goal of getting kids to exercise their brains rather than just doing sports or being in front of a computer. She discovered Think-ets at her local bookstore.
At first, she introduced the Think-ets game What’s Missing? from Kindergarten through 5th grade at the beginning of each library lesson saying it was a great way to exercise their brains. The game What's Missing? is a simple, age-old game that is based on memory and observation skills. The skills used are essential skills for math, science and a variety of other subject areas, which was just what she needed.
The students got so excited about the game that they wanted to play before every session. Seeking to get more students involved, she used her PTO book fair money to purchase 12 more games and, starting with second grade and going through fifth grade, she began the Think-ets Competition.
"We based the competition around the memory game, What’s Missing? because what we have been doing in the library for the last month is exercising your brain without watching television or being in front of a computer."
The students worked in pairs and they started with three games of What’s Missing? with the winner of those games going on to the next level. When a tie occurred, they would make it harder and take three objects away, then four and so on until the tie was broken. The ones that didn’t make it were so encouraging that they become scorekeepers or played a game with another person that was out of the round.
"You could feel the excitement at the school build," says Barbara. "Kids really were so excited to participate and those who moved up to the finals were thrilled. Many kids are good at sports and some kids don’t have that talent, so this game is good for them." At the end of it all, the winner of the competition won a free game.
She also says that their inclusion (or special education) students really enjoyed the competition too. Some of them were winning rounds because they had excellent memories. One of their inclusion students who is in the 3rd grade went to the finals. Turns out, he was beating everybody.
The event also taught sportsmanship. Children met new friends because in the competition, students were never paired with the same students when they advanced to the next level. It was a way of creating different friendships. What was most important was the challenge, not being with your friends.
Since the competition, the game has moved into classrooms throughout the school and is being played on a daily basis. Even the principal has used the game with his after school theatre group.
"We plan to do this every year," she says. "It is a wonderful thing to have. Books are very important and computers are so important, but those hands-on things are what they truly remember. I've been at this for 30 years now and I have seen the transition to the technological age. But I know that these tactile things are very important in a child’s life."
So, how are they going to pay for this in the future? "We have a book fair at our school in February and the principal has allowed me to use some money to purchase Think-ets and they will be permanently bar coded and filed in the library to be used throughout the school."
Wow. Games really can teach. There are many great games out there that can be amazing teaching tools—all you need is a little creativity and a little initiative.
Randy Compton is the CEO of Think-a-lot Toys and one of the inventors of Think-ets. He has worked in schools for over 15 years teaching conflict resolution and social-emotional learning. He is also the co-editor of Kids Working It Out: Stories and Strategies for Making Peace in Our Schools.