Friday, September 6, 2013

Games in the classroom

The school where I teach has a wonderful summer reading program where 40 teachers pick a book on a subject that interests them.  Students then sign up for a book that captures their imagination.  Since we instituted this approach last year, complaints about summer reading assignments have dropped to nil, since all students got one of their top five picks.  Then, we take a day in September and dedicate it to the reading. Teachers are responsible for planning a fun and educational activity that springs from the book.

This year, I read Pegasus Bridge, by Stephen Ambrose. It had the virtues of being short, well written, and a ripping good yarn filled with hard-to-believe-but-darnit-they're true heroics.  We warmed up by breaking the group into teams.  Each team planned an attack on a bridge that crosses the creek that runs through our campus.  Then we discussed the book and  the overall problems faced by the Allies on D-Day.  Finally, we played a table-top simulation of a fight for the hedgerows in Normandy with a simple home-brew set of rules.

Definitely a fun day.  the kids learned some valuable life lessons that they can use in their everyday life like:

  *The biggest gun in the game ain't much use if you can't bring it into action.
  *Plan.  Plan a lot. Then make plans for when those plans go awry.  Then ACT!
  *Don't cross open ground in close formation if you know the enemy has an artillery spotter nearby.

Overall, it was not a good day for the Allies. When I ran a solo playtest, the Americans overran the German lines in two turns, owing to some unbelievable luck on my part.  When I played with the students, the luck was all with the Wehrmacht, as the Allied center just got raked in a crossfire without being able to mount an effective response.

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