Saturday, July 23, 2016

Racing Goats of the Cramanthain!

This week I wrapped up my annual, two week Adventure Games Camp, hosted by my district at a local high school.  Some highlights:
  • 28 middle school students joined in the fun (some attending both sessions and a number of them coming back from prior years)
  • We gamed from 8:15-2:45 each day, breaking only for a quick 30 min lunch
  • We offered about 30 different board, card, and role-playing games and just about everybody learned something completely new
  • 4 program alumni (high school and college students) took time out of their summer to come back and help teach games
  • eight separate ventures into Dwimmermount were attempted ... much was learned, but only a handful of characters lived to tell their tales
  • Despite the launch of Pokemon-Go we still managed to keep kids engaged with the games and with each other
  • the tournament was capped off by The Great Goat Race -- each team, representing one of the competing highland Cramanthain clans (Murtog, Magai, Meblung, etc.), selected their courser



These beauties have been fitted with their clan caparisons (which would be in tartan if I had the time to do it properly) and are ready for the truck ride to the big race!

The actual race was a physical / dexterity game in which we laid out a course (a circuit of about 250-300 feet).  The steps were simple:

  • team member 1 stands behind her/his goat and throws the Frisbee/disc
  • team member 2 stands behind her/his goat and throws the beanbag in an effort to land it atop their disc
  • team member 3 moves the goat as follows: 
1. miss/hit another goat or player = no movement
2. bag made contact with own disc = 1 stride forward
3. bag hit and remains on another team's disc = 2 strides
3. bag hit and remains in contact with own disc = advance goat to touch own disc

Ah ... but the strategy and sneakiness involved!  If I throw my bag to knock the disc away from other bags then I can potentially cancel another team's advance.  Likewise, sometimes it pays to toss my bag backward at a closer opponent's disc and try for two strides rather than chance a longer toss at my own disc.  Add to that the basic trade-off of whether to risk a long throw with the disc (and a possible miss, meaning a turn spent at a standstill) or a wimpy, little throw that you are virtually guaranteed to make but which only moves you a short distance forward, and quite a lot of strategy is involved.

So ... a really busy but exhilarating couple of weeks.

My biggest "ah-ha" for this year was about how well station teaching can work with middle schoolers given the right conditions.  For me, the right conditions included:

  • students who were already interested in the topic at hand
  • a crack team of leader-facilitators to monitor and assist at each station
  • small class size (16 vs 28)
  • freedom to move at the students' pace rather than the pace dictated by a curriculum guide

I wonder if I'll be able to apply that success back in the general educational setting absent those advantages.