Connecting Through Board Games

Posted February 24, 2021


By Roxie Zeller

Over the course of the pandemic, I have rediscovered a love of board games. They have been a great way to escape the reality of the world around us and lose myself in the world of the game. With the use of today’s technology, I can play board games in person with my husband and others in my COVID bubble, as well as play online with loved ones outside my bubble, even those who live far away.

Games offer an intrigue that draws people in. Many games focus on adventure or fantasy. Others are all about the art of the game. In my personal collection, I love games where players take the role of an adventurer, such as in Lost Cities, where you set off on quests to find lost cities and score points. I also love Carcassonne, a game in which you compete to build cities and fields with tiles that show images of southern France, and Sagrada, a beautiful game in which you build stained glass windows with colorful transparent dice.

But what makes board games really special is the people who play with you. It’s the other players who push you to plan ahead, pay attention to what everyone else is doing, and improve your strategies. That friendly interaction is engaging; you can immerse yourself in it.

Board games have a similar appeal to children. They provide children with opportunities to learn while having fun with friends. I have brought my love for board games into the classroom and have really enjoyed playing with the preschoolers. So far, we have played Old Maid, Go Fish, Bingo, Memory Match, Max, and Hi Ho Cherry-O. Of these games, Memory Match and Hi Ho Cherry-O have become our favorites. Memory Match and Bingo draw in a large group of children, some of whom are willing to remain attentive for the whole duration, while others flow in and out of the game. Hi Ho Cherry-O tends to pull in three or four preschoolers who, for the most part, stay engaged through the whole game. The wonderful thing about playing with preschoolers is that everyone has a great attitude: we laugh and joke about bad luck in Hi Ho Cherry-O; they help each other out in Memory Match. The children don’t seem to place a huge emphasis on winning but rather enjoying the twists and turns of the game.

What the preschoolers don’t know is these board games are a great way to help them practice counting, fine motor skills, turn-taking, following rules and instructions, communication and teamwork. There are countless research articles about the benefits of board games for children of all ages.

My hope is that by playing games in the classroom with my preschoolers, I not only help them develop important skills, but also instill a love for games in them. Many children and adults today connect with their peers through video games, movies, and TV shows. Playing physical board games with friends is another great way to connect. In a world of screens, it is refreshing to unplug and lose myself in the world of a game.

Across The Blue Divide

Posted February 10, 2021

Across the Blue Divide

by Amanda Janquart

We are continuing to keep classes in pods at All Seasons, with up to eight children and a teacher. There is no denying that it can sometimes feel as though we are isolated, ships passing in the night as we see another group from across the woods or pines. But we have thankfully found ways to stay connected that don’t interfere with social distancing practices.

The school-agers have worked on forts to share with the preschoolers. They’ve planted golf balls to surprise them, carved out snow forts, and cleared trails and packed down the sledding hill to make it easier for the younger students. In return, the preschoolers have been respectful and thankful, calling out their appreciation and enthusiastically waving through windows. But the magic really took off with the discovery of blue spots in the snow.

It was during a scavenger hunt that the blue patches on the snow were found. The school-agers certainly thought that they had earned a top prize! We were all stumped, though. What were they? It took some research (thanks, Google) and some brainstorming on what exactly to search. “Blue snow” brought up glaciers and explained why ice appears blue. Hmmm. Deer and rabbit scat was nearby, and a child wondered if the blue patches could be pee from an animal. A search for “blue rabbit urine” resulted in images that matched! The internet explained that this happens when rabbits are stressed for food and turn to European buckthorn, an invasive species with toxic berries with which these children are well acquainted. It would seem logical that the dark blue berries led to the blue pee. (Personal stories of eating “superman”-flavored/dyed ice cream were shared at this point!) But it is actually the buckthorn bark and branches that the rabbits can reach and consume.

A 2019 article in the Mille Lacs Messenger by Stan Tekiela explained more. “The buckthorn produces phytochemicals through primary and secondary metabolism. Usually the phytochemicals have biological activity in the host plant and help in the plant’s growth or defense when fighting competing trees, pathogens such as plant killing fungus or predators such as insects. The compounds pass through the rabbit’s system and come out in the urine. Normal rabbit urine color is yellow. When they are eating buckthorn, the rabbit’s urine comes out yellow, but it is widely reported (not tested) that once the urine, tainted with the phytochemicals, is exposed to sunlight, it turns blue in about ten minutes.” He also posits that it is exposure to oxygen, rather than to sunlight, that may cause the color change.

The knowledge was gobbled up by the school-agers and shared with the preschoolers. While they wanted to see the blue spots too, the biggest takeaway for the younger students was that the rabbits were very hungry, and therefore, they had to do something to help! The next day the preschoolers set to work, delivering a parent’s donation of carrots and cabbage to the rabbits. They worked compassionately, building a “bunny fort” (modeled after the big kids’ fort) throughout the coming days for the rabbits to rest in.

While we weren’t physically near, the two groups strengthened their connection over a shared experience – gaining knowledge and stretching socially and emotionally along the way. I know it wasn’t really magic, but that is certainly how I’d describe it.