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Subject: Maintaining a Game Library in School rss

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Reed Lindner
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I also teach at middle school, and have run my own game club for the past two years. I think what you are doing is fantastic.

I'm fairly sure you already know what to expect if you've taught middle school students for any length of time. You will lose pieces--and occasionally your patience--but it is totally worth it. So many students grow up in homes where they have never played games. A game club is not a necessity, but it sure is beneficial.

One thing you might not expect is how devoted and dependent your students will become. I was totally surprised by how often my game club students would seek me out during the day, double and triple-checking when our next meeting would be. It became an important part of some students' lives. I had to learn to develop a regular meeting schedule, and to avoid cancelling club meetings if at all possible. For many, it was the only social outlet they had.

One thing that helped me keep up with my games is to assign responsible students to a game. My "regulars" do a good job of watching out for my games, which is appreciated since I fund everything myself. I loved the idea someone posted of watching for dropped game bits, and being able to use them for yourself if you find them. I'm going to use that this year for sure.

My time with students after school is often limited, so if you and student helpers can have games set up and waiting it really helps speed things along. Time is always a factor and any little bit helps. As such, I usually limit what games we play the first few meetings, while I teach and train them how to play. In future meetings I introduce new games, while already taught games are run by the students at other tables. I post at the entrance something like:

Today's new game: Pandemic at Mr. L.'s table.
Other games available: Hive, Qwirkle, Castle Panic, Ticket to Ride
Next meeting's new game: Summoner Wars
Yu-Gi-Oh and Magic players are welcome to grab a table and play.


I'm not sure if you plan on playing games with the students. I find it is a great opportunity to teach by example, mirroring how to behave. I also often "think out loud" as I conduct my own turns, teaching how to develop a strategy as I play.

I hope your experience is as positive as mine has been. I'm sure you'll hit some bumps along the way, but it really is a worthy endeavor. Knowing the age of your students, I'd like to say "Thank You" for your students, as they often forget to tell you how much they appreciate your efforts!



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Giles Pritchard
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My school has a Game Club, runs two annual game days and is lucky enough to allocate a budget to the Games Program (I have a very good principal).

I have previously run game programs at different schools around the place - and helped one school in a city nearby set up a Games Library (they applied for, and received around $10,000 in funding from local businesses). The idea of the Games Library was two-fold - to replace the homework program at the school, and most importantly - to encourage families at home to interact at a face-to-face level. The school did some research on their family base and found that most families were dual income, and that kids spent a lot more time engaged in solitary activities when at home like playing computer games and watching TV. They wanted to do something to encourage families to interact more - and it was on that basis that they got their funding (something you could perhaps look into?).

I absolutely applaud what you are doing - games are a wonderful way for people to interact and connect and I think it's a great thing that you are pouring so much of yourself into this project - build it, keep at it, document it, then use all that as leverage so you can get some money to support and grow it in the future (if possible)!

I'd also suggest asking some different companies as well as local and online retailers. Every company I have approached has been very willing. I'd also make an effort to document what you do and feed it back to the community - we have a game review in every week of the school newsletter. It's a good thing to point publishers and whatnot to say - here's what we do.

Now - as for what we did re a games library. The one I helped set up was organised so that there were a certain group of kids who were the games monitors - it was their job to check the games in when they had been returned and go through the components. Each game had a component list that was stuck on the inside of the box lid. All rules were photocopied, and a copy was laminated and placed inside the game box. A lot of work was put into teaching the students the maxim - that whatever came out of the box, went back into it when they were done playing.

Each kid was also given a canvas bag (or something similar) that the games would be placed in when they borrowed them (rather than just going in their school bag).

Continual monitoring of the games has been vital to maintaining them. This does take a lot of work, but I think it's been worth it!

In any case - there's some of my thoughts - fantastic job on what you're doing!

Cheers,

Giles.


Edit: My current school has a BGG account where I keep track of the game we own and some very rough play counts (no-where near all, but it helps me sort out which games the kids really like and which don't get used at all).

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R Moore
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You should put out a press release to your local paper. It helps generate interest in the club and doesn't hurt your boss' interest in your work either.

Well done! And please post updates once the club is running. I will probably be running one in our K-8 charter school this year as well but am keeping a tight reign on games/pieces myself.
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lotus dweller
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GameFaery wrote:
... I did the next best thing and purchased over 90 games from thrift stores. ...
A determined thrifting gaming teacher!

I nominate you for Geek of the Decade.

One way that I've considered to check the contents of a game box is to weigh it. If this process is not publicised then you should get pretty good results. Digital scales are very cheap and very accurate.
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K S
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Pinook wrote:
GameFaery wrote:
... I did the next best thing and purchased over 90 games from thrift stores. ...
A determined thrifting gaming teacher!

I nominate you for Geek of the Decade.

One way that I've considered to check the contents of a game box is to weigh it. If this process is not publicised then you should get pretty good results. Digital scales are very cheap and very accurate.


My librarian has decided not to allow the games she is keeping leaving the library. It's not exactly what I had in mind, but I do see her point. Any game I have duplicates of I might ask her to allow them to be checked out. Somebody mentioned they purchased game carrying bags. I like that idea too. Might look into it.
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Pete Jurchen
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I'm just jumping on this late...but I want to encourage you. As someone who is going through grad classes on curriculum development right now, there is very little that any teacher can do to develop critical thinking skills that is as good as these kinds of games. Keep it up! You are doing more for the future of this country than I'm sure anyone in your school is giving you credit for (and it's fun, too!).
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Caleb
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pjurchen wrote:
I'm just jumping on this late...but I want to encourage you. As someone who is going through grad classes on curriculum development right now, there is very little that any teacher can do to develop critical thinking skills that is as good as these kinds of games.



shake

Here's something your grad classes won't teach you, but hopefully you will discover for yourself despite the indoctrination you're receiving from self-proclaimed educational 'experts':

Critical thinking skills are built and honed by diligent study, repetition of increasingly difficult problems and exercises, and tough grading against an objective standard, not from playing games.


GameFaery wrote:
Without sounding too political (something I will fail at) our sociopath, idiot (those are the nicest words I could use) governor has decided to cut $800 million from public schools



You don't sound political so much as either colossally ignorant or disgustingly hypocritical. I'm very thankful my kids aren't subjected to 'teachers' like you.
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Matt Sommer
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cannoneer wrote:
pjurchen wrote:
I'm just jumping on this late...but I want to encourage you. As someone who is going through grad classes on curriculum development right now, there is very little that any teacher can do to develop critical thinking skills that is as good as these kinds of games.


shake

Here's something your grad classes won't teach you, but hopefully you will discover for yourself despite the indoctrination you're receiving from self-proclaimed educational 'experts':

Critical thinking skills are built and honed by diligent study, repetition of increasingly difficult problems and exercises, and tough grading against an objective standard, not from playing games.


Hmm. Wonder which opinion I will value more-- the opinion of people who actually do research and study pedagogy, or yours.

Decisions, decisions.

Quote:
GameFaery wrote:
Without sounding too political (something I will fail at) our sociopath, idiot (those are the nicest words I could use) governor has decided to cut $800 million from public schools


You don't sound political so much as either colossally ignorant or disgustingly hypocritical. I'm very thankful my kids aren't subjected to 'teachers' like you.


Perhaps if they WERE, they'd at least understand the meanings of the words "ignorant" and "hypocritical." You don't seem to. Nothing in that introductory paragraph is FACTUALLY incorrect, and nothing mentioned in the sentence is the least bit hypocritical.


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Pete Jurchen
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cannoneer wrote:
pjurchen wrote:
I'm just jumping on this late...but I want to encourage you. As someone who is going through grad classes on curriculum development right now, there is very little that any teacher can do to develop critical thinking skills that is as good as these kinds of games.



shake

Here's something your grad classes won't teach you, but hopefully you will discover for yourself despite the indoctrination you're receiving from self-proclaimed educational 'experts':

Critical thinking skills are built and honed by diligent study, repetition of increasingly difficult problems and exercises, and tough grading against an objective standard, not from playing games.


To be fair to my instructors, they have nothing AGAINST diligent study, repetition of increasingly difficult problems and exercises, and grading against an objective standard. Far from it. The observation is more that playing both strategic and tactical games can be (but isn't always) a way to practice all three qualities you listed above.
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John Bobek
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pjurchen wrote:
I'm just jumping on this late...but I want to encourage you. As someone who is going through grad classes on curriculum development right now, there is very little that any teacher can do to develop critical thinking skills that is as good as these kinds of games. Keep it up! You are doing more for the future of this country than I'm sure anyone in your school is giving you credit for (and it's fun, too!).


For the record, the overwhelming majority of education studies are of such poor quality that they would do poorly in the Behavioral Sciences section of a junior high science fair. The great guru of education, Marzano, admits this fact. His claim to faim is that he "looked" at all the studies and came up with the solution to all teaching woes. If you take a whole lot of rotten eggs, you can make a good omelet apparently. Remember, the preschool and kindergarten teachers are the experts. College professors of education usually are teaching at that level because they can't cut it in the grade schools. If they're lazy and don't like grading papers, they give workshops. If they are on power trips, they become principals.

OK, that's a gross generalization but believe me, it's true enough.

Games in the classroom are one more great tool. Ultimately, though, teaching is about your personality. Your students will mostly forget what you taught, they WILL remember you!
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Pete Jurchen
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Wargamer204 wrote:
pjurchen wrote:
I'm just jumping on this late...but I want to encourage you. As someone who is going through grad classes on curriculum development right now, there is very little that any teacher can do to develop critical thinking skills that is as good as these kinds of games. Keep it up! You are doing more for the future of this country than I'm sure anyone in your school is giving you credit for (and it's fun, too!).


For the record, the overwhelming majority of education studies are of such poor quality that they would do poorly in the Behavioral Sciences section of a junior high science fair. The great guru of education, Marzano, admits this fact. His claim to faim is that he "looked" at all the studies and came up with the solution to all teaching woes. If you take a whole lot of rotten eggs, you can make a good omelet apparently. Remember, the preschool and kindergarten teachers are the experts. College professors of education usually are teaching at that level because they can't cut it in the grade schools. If they're lazy and don't like grading papers, they give workshops. If they are on power trips, they become principals.

OK, that's a gross generalization but believe me, it's true enough.

Games in the classroom are one more great tool. Ultimately, though, teaching is about your personality. Your students will mostly forget what you taught, they WILL remember you!


I'm with you on this truth for sure. The actual science of education is really still in its infancy, and Marzano is held up a lot higher than he should be (like you said, in a roundabout way he admits that). Despite this, there is promise in the fact that there is more of an interest in this today than has been in the past. I remain hopeful.
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Charles Waterman
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GameFaery wrote:
My librarian has decided not to allow the games she is keeping leaving the library. It's not exactly what I had in mind, but I do see her point. Any game I have duplicates of I might ask her to allow them to be checked out. Somebody mentioned they purchased game carrying bags. I like that idea too. Might look into it.


Hope that works for you - I suspect if she goes for it at all, she might say "Only if you don't care if they never come back, I don't have time to chase them down." Just guessing, but, a librarian's life is not an easy one...
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John Bobek
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montebanc wrote:
GameFaery wrote:
My librarian has decided not to allow the games she is keeping leaving the library. It's not exactly what I had in mind, but I do see her point. Any game I have duplicates of I might ask her to allow them to be checked out. Somebody mentioned they purchased game carrying bags. I like that idea too. Might look into it.


Hope that works for you - I suspect if she goes for it at all, she might say "Only if you don't care if they never come back, I don't have time to chase them down." Just guessing, but, a librarian's life is not an easy one...


I keep my games in my classroom. I see all 5 junior high classes so they all have access. You might be able to do the same, no?
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Giles Pritchard
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Yeah - my games are stored in my classroom. Other teachers have access and are encouraged to borrow as they require.





I have plenty of space in my room for this, and it's handy considering I run a lunch time games club as well as the games days.


Games are also useful for socialisation - another subset of skills schools have a role in teaching that fall outside the educationally limited view of just literacy and numeracy.

Cheers,

Giles.
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GROGnads wrote:
Better still, then HAVE an array of photographs that display the contents that every GAME shall comprise. Much simpler to "gaze or pore over" to determine completeness, and at a mere glance then, or when viewing both in comparisons.


Great idea. You can scan the picture and "blow it up" to lifesize, so the kids can put the components *on* the picture to make sure the pieces are there. Crazier still, you can cut up the "blow up" suchthat all the students have to do is put the bits onto the appropriate "blow up" paper, fold the paper in half, and slide the bits into their appropriate ziplock bag!

Frex: Place all the green Carcassonne meeples on a sheet. Then, the kid can just fold the sheet with the meeples, get the bag, and "slide" all the green meeple bits into the bag.
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Wargamer204 wrote:
montebanc wrote:
GameFaery wrote:
My librarian has decided not to allow the games she is keeping leaving the library. It's not exactly what I had in mind, but I do see her point. Any game I have duplicates of I might ask her to allow them to be checked out. Somebody mentioned they purchased game carrying bags. I like that idea too. Might look into it.


Hope that works for you - I suspect if she goes for it at all, she might say "Only if you don't care if they never come back, I don't have time to chase them down." Just guessing, but, a librarian's life is not an easy one...


I keep my games in my classroom. I see all 5 junior high classes so they all have access. You might be able to do the same, no?


We are a non-traditional middle school. Two other teachers and myself are with the same group of kids for both 6th and 7th grade so I only help to instruct 1/3 of the 6/7th grade student population at a time. I really enjoy this setup.

I asked the librarian to hold on to the games so everyone can have access. I have been promoting the games with other teachers. One teacher came down to the library with me and looked at all the games available. He then offered to bring any games he wasn't playing any more as well as promote the game library amongst his students. Yay!
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Jenny Nguyen
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cannoneer wrote:
shake

Here's something your grad classes won't teach you, but hopefully you will discover for yourself despite the indoctrination you're receiving from self-proclaimed educational 'experts':

Critical thinking skills are built and honed by diligent study, repetition of increasingly difficult problems and exercises, and tough grading against an objective standard, not from playing games.


Why do educational 'debates' always end up being one side versus another? The best approach would be a melding of many practices in order to cater to a variety of different learners, and this is what good teachers do.

Rote learning is certainly one way to remember information but it does not necessarily equate to a deeper understanding. The kind of classroom you are suggesting would essentially be teaching students the processes of how to pass an exam, not necessarily critical thinking. Also, those teaching methods (rote learning, repetition and your method of assessment) would only cater to a very narrow spectrum of student types. The reality is, not all students are motivated, not all students perform well under pressure and most students become bored as hell of repeatedly doing worksheets with hundreds of inane maths questions.

Games are one way in which to motivate and engage students and to generate a classroom environment where students have a high level of self-esteem and self-efficacy. Games can also be used as a stepping stone to teaching various curriculum content, but reflections and teacher guided discussions need to make content explicitly known at the activity's conclusion. Naturally the lesson would not be had in isolation of worksheets, homework, formative and summative assessments etc.

Certainly this method of teaching is not efficient and it is a lot of hard work for teachers to organise these kinds of interactive lessons but in the end, it is more important to cater to all students. A happy, motivated student in a safe and encouraging classroom environment is likely to become a much greater citizen (even if they're not smart enough to become an astro-physicist) than one who is taught exclusively using your stated methods.
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smittenkitten wrote:
cannoneer wrote:
shake

Here's something your grad classes won't teach you, but hopefully you will discover for yourself despite the indoctrination you're receiving from self-proclaimed educational 'experts':

Critical thinking skills are built and honed by diligent study, repetition of increasingly difficult problems and exercises, and tough grading against an objective standard, not from playing games.


Why do educational 'debates' always end up being one side versus another? The best approach would be a melding of many practices in order to cater to a variety of different learners, and this is what good teachers do.

Rote learning is certainly one way to remember information but it does not necessarily equate to a deeper understanding. The kind of classroom you are suggesting would essentially be teaching students the processes of how to pass an exam, not necessarily critical thinking. Also, those teaching methods (rote learning, repetition and your method of assessment) would only cater to a very narrow spectrum of student types. The reality is, not all students are motivated, not all students perform well under pressure and most students become bored as hell of repeatedly doing worksheets with hundreds of inane maths questions.

Games are one way in which to motivate and engage students and to generate a classroom environment where students have a high level of self-esteem and self-efficacy. Games can also be used as a stepping stone to teaching various curriculum content, but reflections and teacher guided discussions need to make content explicitly known at the activity's conclusion. Naturally the lesson would not be had in isolation of worksheets, homework, formative and summative assessments etc.

Certainly this method of teaching is not efficient and it is a lot of hard work for teachers to organise these kinds of interactive lessons but in the end, it is more important to cater to all students. A happy, motivated student in a safe and encouraging classroom environment is likely to become a much greater citizen (even if they're not smart enough to become an astro-physicist) than one who is taught exclusively using your stated methods.


The best unit I ever put together was a meteorology unit. I was able to teach note taking, independent work, social interaction, and inspire the students to talk to me about weather non-stop. My whole unit was based around a weather game simulation. Strangely enough, my students never did more worksheets for me than during that game. While one group took a turn, other groups did worksheets about weather and traded goods. They could earn points for the game by doing well on worksheets or trading for the right goods to meet a goal.

Everything was based around the game. When I gave a lecture on weather, the students sat in their groups and helped one another take notes. They could earn points for their notes. Out of a class of 45 students, only two did not take notes. One did not take notes because of a disability, and the other only took partial notes. When I did weather experiments in the lab, they could earn points for the game. Plus most students love experiments.

Ever since this experience, I believe completely in the value of games in the classroom. I put $400 of my own money in and close to 200 hours of work to invent the game, but it was completely worth it. I never had a more motivated and excited group of students.

This is in part why I am so big on starting this game library/club. A collection of games will benefit not just my students, but all the students. Teachers will have access to unique learning tools.

I already have plans on putting the game library to good use. For my Ancient Egypt unit, I want to teach the game Senet. For my Africa unit, I found the game Uthini, and I am using the game 10 Days in Africa. I also found another game on African countries. In one of my summer classes I also invented a simulation game where students get to be a country that represents an African country. They will have to be creative and come up with solutions to issues facing many African countries today. The simulation game is designed to be hands on and get the students to think about and even care about what goes on in the world around them. That's just my plans for social studies, but there are other games I have in mind for language arts and math. I have a history degree on top of my education degree so I tend to teach social studies the most amongst my team of teachers.
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Jenny Nguyen
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Game Faery,

It would be awesome to see your lesson plans and programming for your units of work . Consider making a BGG blog! I'd definitely follow it.
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Ryan Full
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I'm also coming to the thread a little late but I had to chime in and congratulate you on setting up the club and attempting a lending library.

I have sponsored a weekly after school game club for six years now. Three of those in middle school and three now at the high school (beginning the fourth year at the high school now). Every game in our "school" library is either from my private collection or was donated to me.

When I taught a game design class (it was a middle school elective) I allowed those students to check games out. They were very familiar with my expectations and treated the games appropriately. I never had any damaged pieces.

For my high school club though I don't let them check out games. I briefly considered it but the fact my club doesn't have dues and I would have to replace things out-of-pocket dissuaded me. One of my officers proposed the idea that I only allow upperclassmen who have been in the club at least 2 years check out games. Another proposal was to have "dues" that are only required to get a lending library card. Basically pay 10$ for the year and you would be allowed to check out games.

As of now I am undecided. I hate taking in money, accounting for it, managing the paperwork of checking them in and out, and everything that goes with it.

So mad respect to you for trying the lending library!
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Ian Toltz
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miyu wrote:
As of now I am undecided. I hate taking in money, accounting for it, managing the paperwork of checking them in and out, and everything that goes with it.


Maybe a small deposit ($5-$10)? Since you're only holding onto the money temporarily, shouldn't be much paperwork. You just gotta make sure the kids have some skin in the game.
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Ryan Full
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Asmor wrote:
Maybe a small deposit ($5-$10)? Since you're only holding onto the money temporarily, shouldn't be much paperwork. You just gotta make sure the kids have some skin in the game.


I agree entirely. They need to have some sort of stake in the library or you run into classic "Tragedy of the Commons" problems.

My original rationale was to use the yearly fee to buy games that the school would then technically own. Then I could transition from using my personal collection to simply maintaining a school owned collection.

 
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Jon Kolman
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Nice job and congratulations on doing a lot with so little.
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miyu wrote:
As of now I am undecided. I hate taking in money, accounting for it, managing the paperwork of checking them in and out, and everything that goes with it.


My school's club operates all after school clubs thanks to a massive grant. We are able to run more after school clubs than almost any middle school in our district. Because of the grant money, we are not allowed to charge the students any fees. The grant money only pays teachers and staff to run the clubs, and only pays for supplies when a club is consider academic in nature.

I'm okay with this. I also don't want to collect money or be responsible for it any way. I know there is enough responsibility in just keeping track of all the games' bits and pieces.
 
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Hello Fellow Geeks,

Yesterday I worked on combining two copies of the game Battle Ball to make one complete copy for my Game Club. If you don't know the game Battle Ball, look it up - it's practically the poster child for a million little pieces in a game. There are 22 player pieces (football figures), 13 dice, one small zinc football, and 24 "carnage" chits. Basically it sounds like a game perfect for middle school.

This game is a prime example of pieces that could be lost. Like I said before, my geek side wasn't comfortable with taping anything on the front of the box (although I am strongly considering the picture idea), so I bagged up all the pieces. The blue team football players went into a ziploc bag that was labeled with what should be in the bag. I did the same for all other parts in the game. Then I put all the mini bags of pieces into one bigger bag. It was a LOT of work and I'm not sure I will have the time to do this every time. I may enlist student help for the next time I need to do this.

Luckily for me I found almost two complete copies of Battle Ball. So I also bagged up my parts copy. I figure if anything is missing, I can bring individual bags of missing items in for replacements.

I'm not sure if bagging up all the pieces into separate components will work, but this is also an experiment. I am going to test as many suggestions as possible on this list. Our school just got a ton of new digital cameras so up next is likely the picture idea.
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