The game—which O'Connell said was described by her students as "The Best Game Ever!"—demonstrated how country economies and politics work.
Teaching children about supposedly serious topics of the likes of racism, homophobia, politics, global economy, etc. is something most folks consider a challenging prospect. Former teacher Caoimhe O’Connell, however, believed even heavy topics such as these could be easily taught to youngsters as long as you present them in a manner that's appealing to children. Last year, she shared an ingenious game she came up with to teach her "Primary 7 classes about their place world." The game—which O'Connell said was described by her students as "The Best Game Ever!"—demonstrated how country economies and politics work.
"I feel it could be of use to those in power right now. Seeing as I am home a lot, I'll walk you through the game step by step. Buckle Up," she wrote in a now-viral Twitter thread. "I split the class of 30 into uneven groups. Some had 3, others 7, etc. The groups were 'Countries' and I explained that some countries have bigger populations than others hence why some had 7 members, others 3. They understood. Next, I gave each Country equipment. Scissors, colored paper, rulers, protractors, pencils, colored markers, and fake money. Only some countries have much more equipment than others. One table may have most of the scissors or one table might have only money. This can be random."
O'Connell went on to explain the mission she gave the countries: "To produce shapes out of the colored card and sell them to ME, the boss. I have a large amount of fake money and my aim is to buy shapes from the countries. I set the prices. They vary from item to item... Make shapes - Get money. As they hear the market prices for various shapes the teams begin to look at their resources and excitedly begin to make plans. Some begin to realize they only have green cards or no scissors. Some have all the rulers but no card at all. One country has everything it needs."
Yellow triangles with 7cm Sides £50— Caoimhe O’Connell (@CaoimheRua88) March 15, 2020
Red Squares 6cm sides £100
Green Rectangles 10x4 £20
And so on... you get the idea
Make Shapes - Get Money
To kick things up a notch, O'Connell introduced some more mayhem into the mix by walking around and sprinkling water. "This is the fun bit. My God complex kicking in at this point, I kick back and watch chaos ensue. Theft, bartering, skullduggery, corruption the LOT. Some countries try to form a production line others take on solo efforts but I change the prices of various items suddenly," she tweeted. "Countries that worked on producing lots of the high-value shape are instantly wiped out financially. Others are suddenly RICH! Just as they believe they have gotten the hang of the game, I stand up with my water bottle and walk around the room."
"I try my absolute best to soak every single table and their shapes, materials, etc. *Pro-Tip* Use a squeezy bottle the projection and the aim is much better," she continued. "Total devastation! One time a girl launched herself onto the table to protect her country and I often think about that girl. Some countries have lost everything, especially those that stacked their shapes ready to sell rather than selling them as soon as they were made. Some card is unusable especially when I tell them I won't be buying any wet shapes. This kills the craic slightly. Quick thinkers try to dry things."
A team or two give up. What’s the point? It’s ruined.— Caoimhe O’Connell (@CaoimheRua88) March 15, 2020
A country may be happy enough with what they have achieved and relax for a bit.
Some attempt to continue production. This doesn’t always work but I have had students dry shapes on radiators.
They presume the game is over.
"I ask them if they are finished and they all look confused. And I ask them who they think has won? They all begin to count their money. When they are done I make a big chart on the board and we begin to chart results. Team 1 - £583, Team 2 - £50, Team 3 ..... etc etc. This is where the learning comes in. We begin to discuss why the results are like this. Queue the following: 'They had more card!' 'We didn't have a ruler to measure the sides!' 'SHE STOLE OUR SQUARES!' 'They only sold their rulers instead of making shapes,'" O'Connell recounted.
Ultimately, the students grasp the point of the activity. "They realise that countries are not all equal. Some have an abundance of natural resources. Some are rich and can buy what they need. Others steal and go to war. Some give up in the face of disaster and some continue to work hard," O'Connell tweeted. "When the debate, bickering & sometimes shouting has stopped. I ask them one simple question: Why didn't they work together? Why didn't they push the tables together? Or ask other teams what they thought? Why didn't they form a huge production team or share the equipment equally?"
We play the game again a week later and I give them a day to prepare this time.— Caoimhe O’Connell (@CaoimheRua88) March 15, 2020
The results would make your heart happy.
They now understand (for the most part) what it means to be a Global Citizen. Why we can’t survive on our own.
"Why did they make it a competition? Why did they think that the most money at the end won? Why did they stop? The conversation that these questions produce always amazes me. It's wonderful... I don't teach anymore but I would like to think those kids are sitting watching the news now thinking 'We need to work together' And if they aren't, sure it killed an afternoon when it was too rainy to be outside and tricked them into doing Maths," she concluded.