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Game-ify Your Humane Education Lessons with These Tips

Over the summer, I attended a workshop by The Toolbox for Education and Social Justice about using non-competitive, collaborative games in the classroom. I’ve used games before in my lessons because they are fun and engaging; however, this workshop inspired me to think critically about the types of games I have students play.

Non-competitive, collaborative games are ones where students must work together to achieve a common goal. This differs from competitive games, such as basketball, where one team wins and the other team loses.

The benefit of non-competitive, collaborative games is that they build community because, after playing, students either succeed or fail together. There is no “us versus them” mentality, just one big group trying to win collectively. These games can also teach communication and problem-solving skills because students discuss and test different strategies during gameplay.

Since learning about the benefits of these types of games, I’ve started to tweak games and activities that I’ve used to teach humane education so that they’re non-competitive and more collaborative. I couldn’t be happier with the results.

One activity I changed is called the “Companion Animal Needs Relay Race”, a game designed for early elementary and primary students. When I originally taught this activity, I would put students into two teams. I had the teams line up on one end of the room, and on the other end, I had laminated photos of things that are either good or bad for companion animals. One at a time, I would have a student from each team run down to find a photo of something that was good for animals and bring it back. The team with the member who returned fastest, won the game.

Students at Rosenwald Elementary play the Companion Animal Needs Relay Race.
Students at Rosenwald Elementary play the Companion Animal Needs Relay Race.

The game was fun and students were engaged, but it would sometimes cause unhealthy competition and, a few times, ended with hurt feelings.

I decided to change the game to make it non-competitive and collaborative by changing the goal for the game. Whereas the original objective was to be the first team to have each member find a correct photo and run it back the fastest, the new goal was for everyone in the class to grab a correct photo and run it back in less than 5 minutes. I made it collaborative by allowing the students to yell to their classmates, asking for help when selecting a photo. The game was just as fun and engaging, but this time, the entire class was working together instead of half the class trying to beat the rest of their peers.

Another activity I changed was part of a lesson on recycling. I liked to begin this lesson with an activity where students brainstorm the top reason people do not recycle Then, I would share an article with them that explains why people do not recycle.

I decided to game-ify the activity by turning it into an exercise based on the television show, Family Feud. To do this, I created a poster with the top six excuses people use for not recycling, using sheets of paper to block the answers. The class had to guess at least four of the reasons, but if the class got three wrong answers, they lost the game. To make it collaborative, I had the students discuss their answers and then choose the best guess. The students loved the activity and had lively discussions about what prevents people from recycling.

These are a couple of examples of how I’ve been able to game-ify humane education activities to be non-competitive and collaborative. If you have examples of Humane Education games you’ve created, please share them below!

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