A Resource Management Lesson: Settlers of Catan

Show me a man whose favorite game is Risk, and I’ll show you a man who’s never played Settlers. With those words, my dear friend Colin kicked off a round of the board game, Settlers of Catan. I didn’t know this game existed until last year, when my former roommate Dan (also a geo-nerd) introduced it to me.  I’m not sure how I managed to graduate … Continue reading A Resource Management Lesson: Settlers of Catan

Geography Games Part 1: Board Games

            If you search online for “geography games” or “geography board games” you’ll find a bunch of boring and arguably pointless trivia games that are just, well, trivial. Trivia games reflect a common misunderstanding of what geography really is and how to learn about it. Geography isn’t about memorizing encyclopedic facts any more than psychology is about memorizing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. All-in-all, “geography” board games fall short in the content department, and in the fun department.
US_Navy_PlayingRisk_WIKICOMMONS_FREE_BC_FED_OFFICIALS_tyMass Communication Specialist Seaman William P. Gatlin (1).jpg
Seaman playing Risk… and Battleship! (Photo by William P. Gatlin, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
           With this in mind, I’m beginning a multipart series on geography-infused games. In future posts, I hope to integrate your feedback and the opinions of expert educators and gamers, along with more in-depth analysis of specific games. Today I’ll discuss the educational merits of classic board games, as well as a few obscure favorites of mine.
            Board games have so much potential to make learning geography fun and engaging. Unlike video games, they give us an excuse to interact with actual, physical, tangible maps. Unlike atlases, they let us to do things on the map, like navigating them with ships, cards, and figurines. At best, they should illuminate the interactions of the physical, human, and biological world. At the very least, they should explore time, place and space in an interesting way.
Why did I feel like I had to include Risk? Maybe because it is the first map-based game that most of us played as kids. But beyond the general shape of the continents, the game doesn’t have any real-world geography to it. The silly sub-regions actually confuse our geographic knowledge because the country and region names are mixed-up and wrong. Why is it that Ecuador and Bolivia become part of Peru? Why didn’t they just generalize it as the Andes? (Yay! I think I found a topic for my thesis…). If you want to keep the fun military strategy and lose the bogus world map, check out this highly accurate version of Risk set in Middle Earth.  Ages 12+, 3-5 players

Continue reading “Geography Games Part 1: Board Games”

Celebrate with Friends of World Heritage!


To help with our celebration of human cultures, Shawn Parell, communications associate with the UN Foundation’s Sustainable Development group, explains why World Heritage sites (selected for both cultural and natural values) are so important to both protect and explore–virtually or in person!

To help celebrate this
year’s Geography Awareness Week, test your geography knowledge using the
Friends of World Heritage TravelPod “How
Well Do You Know Your World
” game, featured on My Wonderful World’s Geography Awareness Week website.
The game is a fun, informative (and addictive!) way to test your knowledge and
brush up on those lesser-known World Heritage sites.

Whether you have kids of
your own, or, are just a big kid yourself, promoting geography education is a
great way to learn about World Heritage sites, which span the globe and include some of the most unique
and important cultural and natural places on earth
. There are 878 World Heritage sites in 145
countries around the world.

World Heritage
sites belong to all of us
. Through Friends of World Heritage, you can help protect these natural and cultural
wonders of the world, explore
the majesty of these places recognized for their outstanding value to humanity,
and experience for
yourself the marvels of World Heritage. Learning more about these sites enables
people young and old to appreciate how landscapes are created, the diverse
cultures of people living around the globe, and how our actions can impact our
environment and fellow global citizens.


Continue reading “Celebrate with Friends of World Heritage!”

“Telephono:” The Game of Telephone Goes Global

Some people argue that great art is inspired by
simplicity. Did you know that Beethoven’s Fifth
might have been inspired by three notes of a local bird’s song?
Well, David Matysiak is following suit by taking the kid’s game of telephone
and creating a series of musical anthologies in his Telephono project.

Telephono is a fun, collaborative, creative mash-up concept:
Matysiak writes an initial piece of music and sends it to a fellow musician,
who then has the freedom to change “anything or everything” about the original
version. The second musician sends it to
a third, and the chain continues. At
each stage, artists send their product back to Matysiak.

Because the process is archived at each step, a listener of
the entire process can hear the specific changes that each musician makes. What’s especially awesome about this project
is that it travels across state lines, country borders and international
oceans, showing that place can contribute to the artistic process.

Place is literally infused in some pieces of Telephono. For example, Italian musician Enrico Molteni
took a pop song sent to him from Chicago musician, Mike Kinsella, and added sounds of an Italian beach to the track. (Check out
each step of this process! From Matysiak’s first repetitive guitar riff called
“There Was No Expiration Date on the Carton of Milk That Wore My Thinning Face”
to Molteni’s re-titled pop-version “Ain’t We Superhuman”).

Continue reading ““Telephono:” The Game of Telephone Goes Global”

“Reach the World” with GeoGames

Reach the World, a New York-based educational non-profit recently released “GeoGames,” a series of free, interactive online activities that adopt a hands-on approach to learning geography. Supported by findings from educational research, GeoGames is distinct from other online games in its use of a 3D globe rather than the traditional 2D map. Keeping with the organization’s mission to “help elementary and secondary school students and … Continue reading “Reach the World” with GeoGames