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A Brief History of Cooperative Games

The cooperative games movement dates back to the 1960’s and 70’s. Early pioneers include:

Terry Orlick (Canadian professor of kinesiology; cooperative games inventor and researcher; Olympic coach; and personal performance expert)

Jim Deacove (owner of Family Pastimes games company and pioneering designer of cooperative board games)

Stewart Brand (author of The Whole Earth Catalog and Vietnam war veteran who invented “New Games”—games that emphasized playfulness and joy rather than winning)

Dale LeFevre (game inventor and author of several New Games books)

Pat Farrington (who was connected to the New Games movement but added the insight that trust and cooperation could be built into games so that her games were “not so much a way to compare our abilities but to celebrate them”)

Ken Kolsbun (previous owner of Animal Town, the first manufacturer of cooperative games in the United States and designer of the classic board game Save the Whales. )

CooperativeGames.com got its start in 2009 when Ken Kolsbun retired and Suzanne Lyons turned AnimalTown, aka Child and Nature, into the Internet’s first shop and resource center focused strictly on cooperative play.

Since the early 1970’s, and thanks to the effort and inspiration of the earliest innovators, cooperative games of all sorts (circle games, board games, PE games, ice breakers, educational games, etc.) have spread organically to homes, schools, camps, work places, churches, activist gatherings and other settings around the world syncing up in Europe with a long-standing tradition of “friend games.” Still, cooperative games have remained relatively unadvertised and have not been promoted or produced on a mass scale. This is a mixed blessing, but is perhaps a positive for the integrity of the field. They are a bottom-up rather than a top-down “reform”, evolving as more and more people creatively adapt the idea to their own uses.

As the need for greater cooperation at a societal level becomes clear, public awareness of cooperative gaming grows. The educational community is awakening to them since cooperative games are at the intersection of four major pedagogical trends:

• recognition of the value of play

• cooperative learning

• attention to school climate

• gamification of education for content learning

In addition, cooperative digital gaming is lately attracting the interest of academics and entrepreneurs who recognize that large-scale online cooperative gaming has applicability to sustainability and social justice issues. All factors are converging, and surely cooperative play is blossoming in exciting new ways.

For more on cooperative games, to purchase games, and find free ones, visit CooperativeGames.com.

Happy Playing!

Rethinking Youth Sports with Cooperative Games

hoop game imagesI enjoy reading the literature on cooperative games as do many people who come to my web shop CooperativeGames.com. I just read and now recommend  “Rethinking Youth Sports” by Ramsey and Rank, of the Georgia Parks and Recreation Department. PE teachers and camp counselors: this article on cooperative games is especially relevant to you!

The authors argue that youth sports promote aggression in kids. The reason, they say, is that kids learn a winner-take-all attitude by participating in sports and that fair play and sportsmanship are on the decline. They attribute this to general cultural influences as well as violent behavior among some high profile professional athletes in recent years. Sad if this is true, but in any case, Ramsey and Rank feel that cooperative games can do much to restore civil behavior and reduce aggression in kids’ sports. They provide the following examples of how individuals and organizations might enhance youth activities with cooperative games:

  1. Incorporate cooperative games as a key component of youth activities programs
  2. Work with local schools to provide support for physical education teachers, teachers, and playground leaders with cooperative games activities and strategies for implementation of cooperative games in the classroom. Do the same with daycare facilities.
  3. Establish a consortium or recreation provider agencies and focus on the positive aspects of youth sports, incorporating cooperative games as part of the process.
  4. Embody cooperative games into the “Benefits of Recreation” information provided by the National Recreation and Park Association, state park and recreation associations, and local park and recreation agencies.
  5. Sponsor a local workshop on “how-to” conduct cooperative games.
  6. Work with local youth sports organizations and share the values and benefits or cooperative games. Suggest strategies for implementing them as part of their regular youth sports programs.

See the entire article at http://ww2.valdosta.edu/~dcdurham/article_2.htm

Be sure to check the Fun and Free pages at CooperativeGames.com for free directions to cooperative games useful for PE classes. Also shop for books on cooperative games in our book section. Or, make up your own games! It’s easier than you may think.

 

Research Findings: Being on the Same Team, as We are in Cooperative Games, Promotes Helpfulness and Reduces Aggression

sun and kidsIn an experiment profiled in a recent British study1, students helped out a person who pretended to be hurt much more if they thought they were on the same soccer team as him. So it’s not just a person’s level of altruism, their beliefs about others, etc. Really we help one another out largely because we construe ourselves to be on the same “team”. The sense of being on the same team promotes helpfulness. Likewise, according to the book I am now reading The Psychology of Group Aggression2, construing another person as belonging to a different team promotes aggression! Plainly stated, when we think we are on the same side we tend to be nice—but put us on opposite sides, and the meanness comes out. Teachers, we can put this scholarship to good use: bring on the cooperative games! Kids of any age forget about group identification and who’s in and who’s out. For a time, they feel that they are on the same team. This promotes helpfulness and mitigating aggression.

Sources:

1. See: Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin at this address

http://view.exacttarget.com/?j=fe571576736502757013&m=fefc1273716707&ls=fdea1c7877670c7577127172&l=febe1677716d0278&s=fe171c787c62017d7d1375&jb=ffcf14&ju=fe2c15787162047c731776

2. See:  The Psychology of Group Aggression by Arnold P. Goldstein; John Wiley & Sons; © 2002

A Short History of Cooperative Games

Are Cooperative Games a recent innovation? Or is there a history behind this concept? Here is a capsule history.

The cooperative games movement in North America—the conscious attempt to use inclusive games that are based on cooperation rather than competition in order to have fun and promote healthy relationships and community—dates back to the 1960’s and 70’s. Early pioneers of the movement include Terry Orlick (Canadian professor of kinesiology, cooperative games inventor and researcher, Olympic coach, and personal performance expert); Jim Deacove (owner of Family Pastimes games company and pioneering designer of cooperative board games); Stewart Brand (author of The Whole Earth Catalog and Vietnam war veteran who invented New Games to provide games that emphasized playfulness and joy rather than winning); Dale LeFevre (author of several New Games books and inventor of and globe-trotting teacher of cooperative games), Pat Farrington who was connected to the New Games movement but added the insight that trust and cooperation could be built into games so that her games were “not so much a way to compare our abilities but to celebrate them”, and Ken Kolsbun (previous owner of Animal Town Games, the first manufacturer of cooperative games in the United States and designer of the classic board game Save the Whales). Thanks to these fun-loving social innovators and other contributors too, resources for playing cooperatively has grown over decades. Cooperative games of all sorts (circle games, board games, PE games, ice breakers, educational games, etc.) caught on and spread organically to schools, classes, schools, camps, churches, and other settings around the world syncing up in Europe with a long-standing tradition of “friend games.” Still, cooperative games have remained relatively unadvertised and have not been promoted at a mass scale. This is a mixed blessing, but is perhaps a positive for the integrity of the field. They’re a bottom-up rather than a top-down “movement”, evolving as more and more people creatively adapt the idea to their own uses.  Join us!

This little bit of history comes from CooperativeGames.com. Come visit us to learn more about cooperative games, pick up some free games, and shop for games for home, schools, and other organizational settings.

Take Care!

Suzanne Lyons (a mom, teacher, & founder of CooperativeGames.com)

Natural Easter Egg Dyeing with a Cooperative Flair

NaturallyDyedEggsST3 (1)Here is a cooperative play idea for the upcoming Easter holiday. You can make beautiful naturally dyed Easter eggs like the ones shown here using natural plant-based dyes. This works great. I did it last year and will do it again today. I got this method from the National Cooperative Grower’s Association (NCGA) website (StrongerTogether.coop)­, my go-to information source for everything related to food co-ops. Directions:

  1. The first step is to hard-boil your eggs. You’ll want to use white eggs. Use a stainless steel or glass pot. The water level should be a couple inches above the eggs. Let the eggs boil then simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and let them dry.
  2. Refer to the chart below to decide which dye colors you will be using. Then make make your dyes.
  3. If you are doing this project with kids, I strongly recommend covering your work surface with newspaper and providing aprons for everyone.
  4. Dip your eggs into the dyes. Let sit until the desired shade is reached. Remove them and let them dry.
  5. Decorating Tips: You can wrap string around eggs before dyeing to make stripes. You can draw designs on the cooled eggs before you dip them too.
  6. The Cooperative Flair: Make egg dying a cooperative game activity by letting multiple people contribute to decorating the same egg. Remember Mr. Potato Head? Make Mr. Egg Head!  Everyone draws different features on the same egg with crayon before dying. With a little flour-water paste, stick some Easter Grass or shredded paper on Mr. Egg Head to make wacky hair. Make a full family of Egg-Heads too—Mr. and Mrs. and all the Egg Head children. Enjoy!

Easter Egg dye chart

 

Cooperative Storytelling

Combine story telling with collaboration in this cooperative game.  Great as a party game and easily adaptable to school classes, especially language arts.

Cooperative Storytelling

Materials: None needed

Time Estimate: 15 minutessun and kids

Number of Players: 5 or more

Object of the Game: To tell a progressive story

Skills: Cooperation, Memory, Creativity, Speaking, Listening

 

To Play:

This is a well-known cooperative game suitable for all ages. Children sit in a circle and build  a story together. One child starts the story, his neighbor provides the next installment, and so on. The story is over when every child in the circle has had a chance to contribute. It’s helpful to brainstorm with the kids what the story will be about before you start. For example, you could make a story about Halloween, or a fictional character who takes a trip to the Moon, or a puppy that is born with purple fur, etc.

 

Variations:

For older children, you can play “Fortunately, Unfortunately” in which one story teller describes a positive story development then the next player describes a negative development. For example, Player One starts a story about a kitten named Bilbo. She says: “Fortunately, it was a beautiful day and Bilbo was playing in the garden.” The next player continues with: “Unfortunately it began to rain and Bilbo got wet.” Player 3: “Fortunately, Bilbo found a watering can to hide in.” Player 4: “Unfortunately there was water in the watering can and Bilbo got even more wet!” etc. This is a fun game that carries the message that life has its ups and downs but it all seems to work out in the end.

Cooperative Games and the Gamification of Education

paperdolls in grassThe public has become much more aware of cooperative games in recent years. These days, when people ask what I do for a living and I say that I started the small company CooperativeGames.com (click http://cooperativegames.com/) they usually say “Cool” instead of “What’s a cooperative game?” Part of the surge in popularity of cooperative games is due to the gamification of education.

Games are big in education now. Of 20 small business grants provided by the NSF for educational product development last year, 12 of them were awarded to companies making games. Not surprisingly, cooperative games are among the new games being developed under grants for education. Also, there are lots more excellent cooperative games being developed by small, large, and indie publishers than ever before. Why? Well, it’s pretty obvious that cooperation is key in today’s world of increased global communication, a sky-rocketing human population, stressed-out schools, and common environmental and social issues begging for solutions. Insofar as cooperative games nurture a cooperative spirit and teach collaborative skills, cooperative games are an idea whose time has come. Teachers are a population that gets this.

Teachers are, however, inundated with messaging that favors competition rather than cooperation. Schools, with a plethora of competitive activities ranging from sports to spelling bees to grading on a bell curve, are competitively structured as we know. I’m a former science teacher and I attended the National Science Teacher’s Association in Boston last week. Competitiveness in science classes is one of the factors that motivated me to start CooperativeGames.com in fact. It’s interesting how many large corporations sponsor student competitions…and how blatant the message is from the “powers that be” that competition is the preferred way to bestow recognition and rewards on students. Win this, win that. The message is all over the media and it was much in evidence at the conference. Yet, teachers have mixed feelings about the competitive paradigm. I find that cooperation is what everyone really wants despite the harangue that tells us schools should be based on competition.

The cooperative games being developed by university researchers under grant funding is just one of the signs that educators are rethinking competition and looking for ways to engage that are more equitable, more productive, and more fun! As a result of the NSTA conference last week, I am now looking for great, grant-funded cooperative games to review and post on CooperativeGames.com for you teachers out there. Stay tuned! And please get in touch if you know of university-developed cooperative games that should be made available to the public. We’ll see if we can make it happen. Contact Suzanne at CooperativeGames.com  http://cooperativegames.com/

Cooperative Games for Thanksgiving

cornucopia copyThe big day is almost here. How about adding some cooperative games to your Thanksgiving holiday to get the generations playing together, making a merry good time? Bring out some cooperative board games to keep guests happy while you finish up in the kitchen. Or, play the following Thanksgiving-themed cooperative games that require no materials at all….

1. Basket of Plenty
Players sit around the dinner table. Pass around a small basket (or bowl) full of dried flowers, fruits, or favorite things—a cornucopia of your own making. The group recites this poem:
Basket of plenty, around you go-
Where you stop, nobody knows.
But when you do, one of us will say
What he is thankful for this day.

2. Gobble-Happy
A player leaves the room while those left behind hide small treats or funny objects. When the player returns, the group guides him or her to the treat by saying “gobble, gobble” louder and louder as the player gets closet to the prize. Gobble very softly or not at all when the player is “cold” and raise the gobbling to a happy cacophony as the player nears the sought-after object.

3. Thanksgiving Joke-a-Thon
Put two strips of paper under each dinner plate. One strip has a joke, and the other has a punch line to a different joke. On each player’s turn, she reads her joke. The player who thinks he has the punch line reads it. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what the correct punch line is, but mismatched jokes and punch lines are part of the fun! Here are some corny Thanksgiving jokes and punch lines you can use.

Why was the turkey the drummer in the band?
Because he had the drumsticks.
If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?
Pilgrims.
What has feathers and webbed feet?
A Turkey wearing scuba gear.
What key has legs and can’t open doors?
A turkey.
What kind of vegetable do you like on Thanksgiving?
Beets me!
Why can’t you take a turkey to church?
Because they use such FOWL language.
Can a turkey jump higher than the Empire State Building?
Yes – a building can’t jump at all.
Who is not hungry at Thanksgiving?
The turkey because he’s already stuffed!
What does Dracula call Thanksgiving?
Fangs-giving.
Which side of the turkey has the most feathers?
The outside.
What kind of music did the Pilgrims like?
Plymouth Rock.
Why did the police arrest the turkey?
They suspected it of fowl play.
What did the turkey say before it was roasted?
Boy! I’m stuffed!
Where did the first corn come from?
The stalk brought it.
How did the Mayflower show that it liked America?
It hugged the shore.
Why did the turkey cross the road?
It was the chicken’s day off.

Cooperative Games Summon the Spirit of Cooperation on Halloween. uhooo!

Today is Halloween. Costumed kids will be roaming neighborhoods, huddling in tight groups to giggle and stay safe in the night. Adults join the fun by being ready with bowls of treats…and sometimes even haunted porches! Halloween is a great cooperative play occasion when young and old come together to celebrate and have fun!

My neighborhood in Northern California goes super crazy on Halloween. There’s even a haunted house that artists co-create. Last year it featured a room covered in black and white polka dots with people in matching polka dot suits. They were totally camouflaged—until they jumped out at you! What an amazing community event. Just for the fun of it.

spirit of cooperation

Here are some more ideas to summon the Spirit of Cooperation to your Halloween gathering:

* Play BUILD A MONSTER! But first you have to find all of the pieces. Shred a bunch of old newspaper and create a “haystack” to hide the pieces of the monster. Monster pieces can be cut from felt squares and made as simply or elaborately as you wish. Monster pieces should be no smaller than four inches by four inches so that they won’t be lost in the haystack. Suggested pieces to make: a head, a neck with bolts sticking out, a torso, a brain, a heart, arms, and legs. If you have a felt board, players can assemble the monster as they find the pieces. This is a cooperative game that can be played over and over. Just toss the pieces in the haystack and stir it up to start again. Thanks to party palooza for this game. Their site: http://www.partypalooza.com/Halloween-Games-Party-Ideas.html

* Dunk for apples. Root for the dunker. Everyone wins!

* When kids return from trick-or-treating, ask them to pour the loot into a big bowl or bucket to make a witch’s cauldron. Play this sharing game: everyone sits in a circle around the cauldron. Each player takes a turn going to the cauldron to select a treat for the person sitting next to them in the circle.

* Kids fill a treat bag with donations from their own Trick-or-Treating booty. Donate the bag of treats to a local food back, or homeless shelter.

* Kids sit in a circle and tell a progressive spooky story. Start it out with a Halloween theme such as this “The night was black, the moon was full, and an old house was very dark. An owl perched in a crooked tree and a cat with green eyes sat nervously on the porch. Suddenly, the door to the house creaked open…” The game is over when everyone has had a turn adding to the story.

• Make or go to a haunted house. Appreciate how much cooperation it took to create such a spectacle!

How do you summon Spirit of Cooperation on Halloween. Share your ideas with us at CooperativeGames.com!