MAY 16, 2019
LEARNING TO WIN on water security
students face tough choices in global scholars game
Congratulations! You were elected the mayor of a city on Aqua Island! Each of the four cities is in a different region of the island and has a special set of resources based on its ecosystem. As mayor, you must make choices about your city’s resources. Remember, what happens in your city might impact another city or even all of Aqua Island!
With that prompt, Global Scholars students are thrown into a world of complexity and choice.
Will they earn clean air and water resources for building a low-emissions factory? Or will they save coins by building the less expensive factory, even if it lessens air and water quality for themselves and their neighbors? How will a policy change in a neighboring city impact them? If there is an unexpected oil spill or drought, what benefit is there to helping neighbors recover? In the Global Scholars Water Security Game, as in life, not all cards are fair. Still, good choices count.
“Making decisions of what to trade, choosing either to be selfish or selfless, was the most challenging part,” says Jafar Hussain, who teaches Global Scholars at Allenby Junior Public School in Toronto. “The environmental choices were the most expensive, and if you were trying to be ‘environmental’ you would run out of money.”
The game, part of Unit 4 in the Global Scholars World of Water curriculum, is designed to bring critical thinking into focus. Students must analyze situations from multiple perspectives, draw conclusions based on evidence, and solve problems. They see through new eyes that one city’s water issues are interconnected with cities and ecosystems around the world.
“We wanted the scenarios in the game to prompt student discussion about fairness and equity, to let students grapple with some of the same questions faced by world leaders,” says Colleen Khachatourians, education manager at Global Cities and one of the Global Scholars curriculum writers.
The game generated high engagement among students and teachers alike, and teachers from multiple cities shared their students’ adventures on Twitter.
“The students were very engaged in the game from the start,” reports Audrey Green, 8th Grade Global Scholars teacher and technology liaison at Silver Trail Middle School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“Students started to verbalize that they had to make decisions they hadn’t considered,” she adds. “Some debated whether it was OK to be selfish and why. For example, ‘If I save my city now, I will be in a better position to help others later.’ Or, ‘In the end, money may be the most important resource.’”
“Students really enjoyed the competition of the game, along with trying to work through real-world problems,” says Frank Zizzo, who teaches Global Scholars as part of the 7th grade Social Studies curriculum in Boston/Medford. “It allowed my students to utilize what they were learning throughout the year to make important decisions.”
In many classes, impact lasted beyond game time.
“There was one moment, about a month later, when students were writing posts [in the Global Scholars online discussion board],” says Ms. Green. “They had to consider whether solutions they had derived for a local water issue would impact other cities, and they definitely referenced the game as a resource for making that decision.”
Mr. Zizzo said his students made the connections to very specific local water issues. “We have a river behind our school, so they especially thought about how water pollution harms various places. I heard many of them discussing how they never thought about how pollution from our city can affect people in other places.”
Toronto classes saw local connections as well. “Students became more aware of the contamination issues regarding factories and manufacturing, and cutting natural gas and fossil fuels, which are a cheaper and more selfish choice,” says Mr. Hussain. “The environmental choices are more expensive, although better, forcing people to stick to their budget.”
Teachers shared tips with one another on the online Teachers’ Lounge as well. “I found a great quotation to start the discussion of the game,” posted Margaret Borger, a Global Scholars teacher in New York City. “‘Play is the highest form of research’—Albert Einstein. This led to a nice conversation—such as when you play you make mistakes and you have to solve them.”
“Games provide a great medium to introduce students to complex global issues,” says Ms. Khachatourians. “The keys to a successful game, however, are really the follow-up questions, where teachers can prompt students’ critical thinking skills.”
The Global Scholars Water Security Game is part of the 2018-19 curriculum, World of Water.
Enrollment is currently open for 2019-20, when Global Scholars will consider Nature and Our Cities. There is no charge to participating schools, but space is limited! Contact us if your school district is interested in applying to Global Scholars.
Critical thinking is one of 9 student learning outcomes that global digital exchanges like Global Scholars can promote. Find out more about student learning outcomes.