In this game, students create a peaceful community by individuals who catch the spirit of peace from a peaceful leader. The game models the influence of peaceful social leaders—Ghandi, Thich Nhat Hahn, Peace Pilgrim, or Martin Luther King for example. Before the game starts, secretly designate one of your students the Peace Leader. Now, call the group together and explain that the game consists of everyone walking around the room and greeting one another by looking each other in their eyes, shaking hands, and saying ‘Peace be with you.” The only exception is that the Peace Leader will wink when he or she shakes someone’s hand. The person who has been winked at will greet two more people in the usual way then sit down in a calm position with eyes closed, exemplifying peace. As the Peace Leader completes the journey around the room, more and more people will quietly be seated, and the room will gradually manifest the quality of peace.
Students stand in a circle. Moving clockwise around the circle, students state their own name and the name of someone from history that they admire. If you are studying a particular historical period, you can ask students to pick their heroes from that period. This is a memory game so each player has to name the players before him and their heroes in order. Helping is allowed when players get stuck. In the next round, every player has a chance to share what they admire about their hero.
Here is a game that makes the interdependence of all the biotic and abiotic components of an ecosystem very clear. Children stand in a circle. The leader stands within the circle close to the edge with a ball of string. “Who can name a plant that grows in this area?” …Brodiaea…Good. Here, Miss Brodiaea, you hold the end of the string. Is there an animal living around here that might eat Brodiaea?…Rabbits? Ah, a sumptuous meal. Mr. Rabbit, you take hold of the string here. You are connected to Miss Brodiaea by your dependence on her flowers for your lunch. Now, who needs Mr. Rabbit for his lunch?
Continue connecting the children with string as their relationships to the rest of the group emerge. Bring in new elements and connections such as other animals, soil, water, and so on, until the entire circle of children is strung together in a symbol of the web of life.
To demonstrate how each individual is important to the community, take away one member of the web by some plausible means. For example, a fire or a logger kills a tree. When the tree falls, it tugs on the strings it holds. Anyone who feels a tug on the string is in some way affected by the death of the tree. The process continues until every individual is shown to be affected by the destruction of the tree.
[This activity was developed by Joseph Cornell and featured in “Sharing Nature With Children.” Thanks Joseph.]
In biology, play a Forensics game. One team writes up the description of a crime. The description must feature clues that can be investigated through science. For example: Ask that the crime could allow fingerprints to be left behind, lies and a cover-up, and a handkerchief left at the scene. The other team tries to figure out “who dunnit” based on the evidence and what they know about forensic science; for example DNA testing. In a successful game, both the crime and its solution require use of inference, deduction, and skillful reasoning from evidence.
Science content can be viewed as a narrative, a story. So have your students assemble in a circle and tell a science story, chapter upon chapter. If someone forgets part of the narrative, others chime in to help. If you are teaching about plate tectonics for example, your students can begin with Wegener’s hypothesis of continental drift and end with the discovery of magnetic stripes. Younger students could create a story centered on the topic of pollination—allowing children to add bees, butterflies, fruit, flowers, grocery stores, people and what-not to the unfolding story.
A variant of this game was taught to me (Suzanne) by Nitai Deranja of the Living Wisdom Schools (Thanks Nitai.) It’s called “Fortunately/Unfortunately.” In Fortunately/Unfortunately, students tell a progressive story. But in this case students begin their turn with the word “Fortunately” or “Unfortunately.” This game, when turned into a science game, can be quite challenging; it requires knowledge of all the effects of a particular natural event. For example, Player 1 says: “Unfortunately, an earthquake occurred yesterday.” Player 2: “Fortunately, the earthquake only registered 5.1 on the Richter Scale.” Player 3: “Unfortunately, the epicenter was in downtown San Francisco.” Player 4: “Fortunately, seismic gaps indicated an earthquake was probable. Player 5: “Unfortunately, seismic gaps can only predict earthquake probability within a window of 10 years or more.” Etc.