Sometimes, the best part of my job isn’t my job at all. Sometimes, the best part of my job involves play. This was completely the case on Sunday, when Andy Looney of Looney Labs came to play with us during Casual Sunday.
Now that statement may not quite mean anything or sink in yet. If you are a Fluxx player, then start melting. Andy Looney, inventor of the Mensa approved game, Fluxx, ventured out of Looney Labs with 6 different versions of Fluxx, 4 of which were not published on the market.
I’d like to claim that I’m just so cool even Andy Looney likes to play Fluxx with me, but I don’t think I’ll ever reach that level of epicness. My students however, are awesome. It was their epicness that made things happen. Let me explain.
A big part of my teaching philosophy involves gaming in the classroom. I firmly believe that strategic gaming is a great platform to engage play and higher level critical thinking skills. About two modules ago (we teach on a module schedule), I asked my American Drama Module to create an adaptation for A Streetcar Named Desire. My only rules: it had to be an adaptation, which means certain plot devices had to remain and the story had to be mostly recognizable. Beyond that, no guidelines, no project format, no detailed page long project description. Oh, and there was a prize: best project won movie tickets and me as a chauffeur. For a boarding school, this was “jackpot”. (Apparently using article is now not considered hip.) As nervous as I was about the outcomes of this “open ended project” format (ermergawd I’m going to get cardboard-put-together-last-minute-diaromas), the students were much more in stress mode.
“Can you at least give us a list of project options?”
“Can you tell me if my idea is right?”
“What if I do it wrong?”
This is exactly why I think teaching creative play in the classroom is so important. I will spare you a diatribe until a later post, but I will say this: we have programmed our students to believe that thinking outside the box is too risky. It’s not worth the risk of getting a bad grade, it’s not worth the risk of being wrong. We have programmed students to think that creative play is wrong. And that is fundamentally the opposite of what learning and the classroom should do.
Every single group blew me away. I had a fairy tale adaptation, a Teletubbies version, a fake documentary, and A Street Car Named Desire Fluxx. While they didn’t win, I did tweet their version to Labyrinth Games in DC (best game shop ever). I didn’t realize this at the time, but Kathleen at Labyrinth sees Andy Looney for Small Business Saturdays (yet another reason to love this place). In passing through, I showed Kathleen pics of the version, and lo and behold, in about the time span of a week Andy Looney wanted to come play it.
It was awesome.