JUSTeach Newsletter


May 2006

social justice education




What kinds of games do we play? What do we learn from our game-playing? The close of the school year is a great time to design and play games that allow us to find out how familiar students are with the core values of Catholic social teaching and how well they can apply them when teaching others. In any game, a lot of learning takes place outside the actual structure of the game. We learn, for instance, about winning and losing. The competition to win sometimes overshadows the fun we intended to have while playing the game. Hopefully some learning will also take place as students consider the ways in which games are designed.


In preparation for introducing the activities below, lead the class in a review of the various social justice issues covered in your classroom this school year. Have them group the issues into broader categories such as environment, poverty, homelessness, hunger, prison reform, immigration, etc. Also, use the seven core values of Catholic social teaching in the discussion and point out how the categories overlap and how the values themselves are interwoven. Give the class opportunities to raise questions and share insights.



Creating a game

Option One: Design a game to teach some aspect of Catholic social teaching. If time does not allow students to develop a complete game, explain that they can still have fun coming up with the ideas, envisioning the board, discussing the rules and objectives.

This activity could be kept very simple with students preparing questions relating to books read, issues discussed, or service projects completed during the year. Questions could be put on index cards with the answers on the back.

Option Two: Your students could develop an actual board game to be played with other students in the class. To prepare yourself for this project, check out the following websites for background information.


http://www.hasbro.co.uk/nationalgameplayingweek/site_2005/uk05/html/talent.asp suggestions on setting up a game from Hasbro “Find Out if Your Game Has Talent”


http://www.kidspoint.org/columns2.asp?column_id=1151&column_type=kpfun a simple article giving the basics of making your own game. The site has links to other sites and offers a suggested bibliography for further reading.


http://school.discovery.com/lessonplans/programs/nativeamericans/ while the focus is on comparing Native American concepts of ‘games’ to current United States concepts, there is a section on analyzing the game Monopoly in terms of its game pieces and goals that could add to your presentation of the project. Scroll to “Procedures” and read numbers one and two.



Materials needed:

-Games to serve as models for students. Many social justice teaching projects use Monopoly, older students sometimes use Trivial Pursuit as a model, but simpler board games for younger children such as Candyland or Chutes and Ladders would serve the purposes of this activity.


-posterboard or newsprint and art supplies for each small group to design a gameboard


-markers or game pieces or have students design their own. One possibility would be to cut out pictures or draw symbols on heavy paper and glue them to plastic bottle caps. The markers should reflect the values of CST and not those of popular culture.


-pen and paper for developing rules and goals


-You may need to refer students to particular resources from their class work this year if they need help developing questions for their game


Begin with a general discussion of board games. Perhaps have students break into small groups and give them a few minutes to discuss their favorite games, what they like about them, what they don’t like. As a class, discuss the goals of the various games and what the games teach them about life and culture. Go through a sample game looking at the rules, the goals, and what the game teaches in the way it is played and in the language and symbols used.


Ask the students if all games must have only one winner or if it’s possible to have more than one. Is there only a win-lose scenario or is there a win-win possibility that would still make game playing fun? Do we only play games to win? Do we play to learn? To have fun? To help others? Have they ever played a game where tempers flared or people quit in frustration? Is that a necessary component of game-playing?


Have the class break into small groups and challenge them to design a game whose goal is to teach all or some particular values of Catholic social teaching. They can use a board from another game or design one of their own. Students could use the categories from your classroom review and choose one category of issues such as immigration as a basis for the game or bring in several issues. Another approach would be to take one or more core values such as the care for creation or human dignity. Using a game such as Chutes and Ladders, students could point out the ways human dignity is affirmed or abused in our culture. Perhaps they could incorporate some device to show how the one affirming or abusing another is also affirmed or diminished by the actions chosen. You may have to help each group with resources specific to their game topic, but give the students as much freedom as possible. Game rules, symbols, and objectives must reflect the core values of Catholic social teaching. In addition:

The game must be named.

The goal of the game and its teaching objective must be clearly stated.

The number of players must be listed.

The rules must be written out.

There must be game pieces or markers.

If your game is question-based, there must be at least ten sample questions and answers

Questions could reflect facts you’ve learned, quotes from scripture, and/or quotes from saints or from those involved in justice work.


Perhaps after the groups have developed their games, each could be given 10 min before the end of the year to present their game to the class. Students could also have their games out on a “Doughnut Sunday” or exhibit them for the Peace and Justice committee at their parish. Questions from the game might make good conversation starters at their family tables as well.



If time does not permit the board game activity, consider the following options:


-Small group presentations of a 5-10 min skit illustrating some aspect of CST—keep props to a bare minimum.


-Pretend you are the editor of a Catholic newspaper or magazine. Write an editorial on some issue using the lens of CST and what you’ve learned this school year. Use newspaper editorials for models. Be concise, firm, and persuasive and use the vocabulary of CST.


-Imagine you are in charge of Catholic programming in your diocese and prepare a public service announcement of one minute or two minutes for radio or television broadcast pertaining to something you’ve studied this year. Tape record or videotape for class presentation. Use the vocabulary of CST.


-Spoof a book. Tell your students about the book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulgham. Have them pretend they are adults and are looking back on your class from the ‘advanced’ age of 30, 40, etc. What might this year’s discussions of CST have taught them that they can put to use as an adult in everyday family, work, and neighborhood situations. This would make a nice end of year hall display: “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in ________’s Classroom”! Have each student come up with 10 “lessons” learned. Perhaps they could illustrate them as well.


-Write and illustrate a child’s book for younger preschool children illustrating one concept of CST.



http://www.paxjoliet.org/justeach/justeach2.html offers background on the seven core values of CST. You can also access all articles from the current school year and the archives of JUSTeach through this site.


http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/edumat/hreduseries/tb1b/Section2/activity2.html a game exploring the distribution of wealth and power in society and its impact on human dignity. Requires 100 pennies, peanuts, or other small item.


http://salt.claretianpubs.org/ie/2002/02/ie0202.html link to “That’s Not Fair” a game developed by Tom Turner and played with M & M’s


http://www.osjspm.org/cjen_s99.htm the UnGame is reviewed under “Board Games” in this article by youth worker Michelle LeBlanc on the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis webpage.



http://www.educationforjustice.org/bin/view.fpl/1210/date/200605.html The Center of Concern provides important dates throughout the summer months. Check out their site and consider signing-up for their educator resources next year.



Develop a closing prayer for your classroom. Perhaps you have students who would like to be involved in the planning. Send your students from your classroom on a mission to continue their work for justice and peace. Perhaps a simple blessing ritual would work or you could use a closing prayer or song that reflects the concerns shared in your classroom or is something that you and your students have found particularly meaningful throughout this past year. But do mark the end of your classroom time and send them forth prayerfully and joyfully.


May you and your students experience a summer of wondrous adventures, peaceful moments with family and friends, and may God continue to bless you in all that you do,

Peace, Colette Wisnewski