In Dr. Douglas's Classes, History Is A Game

Beza Kifle

“We have to cover material, and we have to review material, so we might as well do it in a way that is engaging and fun."

If you are a student of Dr. Douglas, you know he likes to play games with his classes, such as Modern Global History and Economics.

During lunch one Thursday, I was able to see one of the games in action. (And even play a little.) Ms. May-Beaver had put an announcement in the bulletin inviting some students to play one of Dr. Douglas’s homemade games, but when I reached the student lounge, I only found Dr. Douglas, Ms. May-Beaver, Ms.Switzer, and Mr. Newman. 

There was a board with different categories of topics, like the time period, where it happened, and what it related to, such as politics, economy, and race. 

Each player grabs a card from the pile and reads the 3 historically related topics. The one under 1 point is the easiest, while the one under 3 points is the hardest. You find one that you know and try to convey it by putting tokens next to pictures while everyone else tries to guess what it is. 

When it was my turn, I pulled “imperialism,” and although I had the option to keep looking through the cards to find something that I knew (like I did for the first 3 cards I picked up), I decided to continue with it because I remembered learning about imperialism in 6th grade. 

It didn’t go so well since what I thought it was completely different than what it actually was. The teachers all patiently tried to guess what it was, and no one got it because I completely did it wrong. Oops! 

When I asked Dr. Douglas the following week how he came up with the game, he said that he is always looking for ways to make class more interesting. 

“We have to cover material, and we have to review material, so we might as well do it in a way that is engaging and fun,” he told me. His inspiration was from his general love for board games, and he has always liked having games to help with review in class. “We actually played that game in class today,” he told me.

I asked Alex Hall, 10, who is in Dr. Douglas’s Modern Global History class, about his opinions of the games. “One of my favorite games is ‘Scramble for Africa’ and we were European countries. We had to use troops to gain money and supplies to conquer African territories.” he explained. “I enjoy playing the games, and everyone else does too,” he told me.

Dr. Douglas has other games that he uses during class and as review before tests, such as Taboo and Bluff. “You want the review material to be interesting and memorable, and games are one way to do that,” Dr. Douglas told me. 

He explained a psychological component to game playing.  If you are playing a game that requires you to know certain facts to earn points, and you don’t know a fact, “then your emotions are heightened and that becomes a memorable experience for you,” he said. He told me that the more emotion there is, the more likely you are to remember that fact, which can really help during assessments.

One key part of games he likes to play is that all students are involved at all times. “Some review games, you’ll have 2 teams, and only one person from each team is reviewing at a time. Everyone else is just bored,” Dr. Douglas told me. The games his students play in class engage everyone the whole time, and this helps them review material the entire class time, instead of just a few moments.

The game I played that day in the student lounge was certainly engaging, since everyone was actively trying to guess what imperialism was after my awful portrayal of it almost the whole time. And I actually learned something: imperialism is a policy that extends a country’s power through military force. It does NOT have anything to do with money, which is what I originally thought…

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