National Centre for Education of Latvia Puts 40 Math& Sciences Boargames in all 800+ Latvian schools
National Centre for Education is a public administration institution reporting directly to the Latvian Minister of Education with key function to develop curriculum for pre-school, basic and general secondary education and vocational education. In 2008-2011 they were running an EU founded project “Curriculum improvement for teaching Sciences and Math in all Latvian schools” completely rewriting curriculum of these subjects with focus on cross-subject coordinated hands-on experiential activities, providing necessary laboratory and other equipment in schools as well as teachers training.
We approached the Project with an idea that we could bring some innovation into schools and create teaching boardgames both as teaching tool and motivational tool for grade 6-11 students. The Project agreed and we started to work.
First project phase was to create 20+ small games for teaching chemistry, physics, mathematics and biology, mostly aimed at enhancing a topic and to be played for 10-20 minutes.
Second phase was to develop 18 more teaching board games for Sciences and Math, now aimed to teach and key curriculum topics, like the Periodic Table for Chemistry and to be played longer – for about 40 minutes.
Our game designers worked closely with the best subject matter experts – national curriculum designers from the Project thus jointly creating a product unique not only for Latvia but also for the whole world – there is nothing systemic of the kind created yet. Created games were tested, piloted and fine-tuned both to pupil and teacher audiences. The following results were achieved:
- Improved quality of the learning process.
- Improved student involvement and concentration during the class.
- Increased motivation of students to acquire knowledge and skills.
- Increased interactivity and dynamics in the classroom.
Third phase was physical game production. We produced more than 70000 game copies and delivered them into each and every school in Latvia so that teachers in each school would have one set of games per classroom to share.
Forth phase was teachers training. August 23, 2011 was “the National Teaching Boardgames Day” for absolutely ALL Math, Chemistry, Biology and Physics Teachers in Latvia. 7000+ teachers gathered in different regional schools for their respective boardgames training. Unique – part of the training was delivered by their pupils!!!!! After experienced teacher trainers have done the game approach training and came to playing and experiencing games, school students, who have been playing and testing games before, became trainers for their teachers, they were explaining rules for each game and assisting in the gameplay.
Dace Namsone: “Curriculum improvement for teaching Sciences and Math in all Latvian schools” Project Leader: If to speak about student benefits the key is that by playing educational games students themselves have ownership of the learning and knowledge instead of a teacher. Also, we do not achieve chemistry or physics outcomes only by the games, students also learn collaboration, communication skills and entrepreneurship concepts that are very much useful in their future life.
Additional to boardgames together with Project experts we also created another unique teaching methodology – “The Manufacturer” simulation. 30-50 high school students in teams of 5 for one full day are managing an enterprise physically and in real time producing soap, medicines and plasterboard. 1 hour is one game year, in this time participants in roles have to get production contracts from clients, buy raw materials, deliver them on site, do physical production, f.i. produce soap and do necessary chemical calculations, deliver to customer, get paid and produce profit and loss statements. 3-4 game years are played in one day, and include preparation time and trainer’s feedback after each round both about business and sciences. Key outcome of the simulation – by bringing sciences and business together school students understand the link between them and real life applications of sciences taught in school – why would I need chemistry in real life. The simulation later became a roadshow where trained facilitators with the necessary game equipment were driving around the country and delivering the game in different schools.
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