My students need 8 copies of the 10 Days in the Americas game to make political geography more engaging.
As the global community becomes more closely connected, our success as a nation and individuals requires a sophisticated understanding of the people and institutions that make up this community. And yet, many of my students cannot even tell me what country they live in.
My students come from primarily lower-class Hispanic households in the neighborhood.
Few have more than one parent at home, and a great many are in foster care or state group homes. The vast majority of the adults responsible for my students have limited literacy skills, and a great many did not finish high school.
The educational system in the area in which my students live is struggling to move away from the "drill and kill" factory-style pedagogical model that has prevailed throughout urban school districts for the past few decades. However, this is an ongoing process, so most students, lacking at-home support, read below grade level and do not have access to interesting or meaningful educational materials.
Playing games is a great way to trick students into learning about any subject. When a student must use their own ingenuity to solve a puzzle of some sort, they actively incorporate any new concepts into their own networks of prior knowledge. Games come with their own intrinsic motivation (we all want to "win," even without a prize), and often students are willing to go back and repeat the entire learning process because the game was fun.
I have played 10 Days in Africa with students before. It is always a huge success, and the students never fail to ask questions about the countries as they are playing. This particular game forces the players think of the countries as real places to which a person might travel, rather than simply named shapes on a map that require memorizing. It will serve as both a teaching and review tool.
So much of what my students encounter in every class already assumes that they have a basic grasp of geography.
As they get older, this assumption only becomes more pronounced. A person who does not even know what a country is, let alone the names of the nations that are shaping the world they live in, will be at an enormous disadvantage their entire lives. If we want thoughtful citizens helping to make our national and foreign policy, those citizens must know their place in this world.
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