Community-Based Learning

Through Real World Projects, the Zulama capstone internship course, students work as a design team to meet client expectations when designing a game for business, a nonprofit, or their school district. Take a look at how valued an internship experience can be for the community, the school, but most of all for the student.

Game of the Month: Morabaraba

Mill_(game)Morabaraba is a mod of Nine Man Morris, a popular game featured in the Evolution of Games course. Morabaraba is a traditional game played in South Africa. Its game board is the same as the one used to play Nine Man Morris, with a tweak! In Morabaraba, each player is allowed three more “men,” or “cows” as the game pieces are called when playing Morabaraba, for a total of twelve cows for each player.

The rules for Morabaraba are very similar to Nine Man Morris. Each player alternatively places a “cow” on an intersection point (node) somewhere on the game board. Once all cows are placed on the game board, each player can slide a cow from one node to another, with each player limited to one move per turn. The idea is to take an opponent’s cow by forming a mill. A mill is three cows in a row along the length of one side of the game board.

In Morabaraba, a cow in an opponent’s mill cannot be taken unless all of an opponent’s cows are in mills. Moreover, a mill that is broken to form a new mill cannot be reformed on the next move. This rule offsets the ability for a player to continually capture an opponent’s cow just by moving one piece back and forth to form a continual series of mills.

The fly rule in Morabaraba kicks in when a player only has three cows left. The fly rule allows a player to fly a cow across the board to any space rather than be limited to sliding a cow from one node to another. A person wins the game when the opponent is left with only two cows.

The Morabaraba game board is easy to make. All you need is a paper and pencil! Game pieces can be as simple as coins or small, colorful rocks used in fish tanks. Play the game with family and friends. Change up the rules or mod the game board for an additional challenge!

Game Review: Superfight

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 3.32.38 PMLast Thursday, the Pittsburgh office Zulama team’s game lunch resulted in hilarity. We chose to play the game Superfight with the core 500-card deck.

There are two card types: characters and powers. We came across a wide variety of characters, from a Samurai, to an Emperor Penguin, to a Girl scout. The characters were all paired with equally interesting “powers,” from superglue with a firehose, to a  glitter shooter, to the pope-mobile. In our short two-round game, we found endless amusing combinations.

While there are many ways to play Superfight, we decided to use an individual judging method. In our gameplay, two players from our group randomly chose a character card and a power card. With the other members listening, they debated the outcome of a battle between the two characters for approximately three minutes. By strengthening our reasoning skills, we were able to find logic within the illogical, silly scenarios and present arguments to convince our listeners why certain characters would win in the contest. Once the debaters’ three minutes were up, the listeners had a minute to discuss the arguments and decide the outcome of the battle. After playing, our Pittsburgh team discussed the possible ways to play Superfight, from team to tournament style, in addition to the recommended four gameplay types. There seems to us no one-way to play this game; rather, it can be easily modified to fit any size group or setting.

To create additional challenges, expansion packs are available that include locations and different themes. Who would win if a glitter-shooting Pikachu fought an emotional George Foreman while riding a rollercoaster? I would be interested in seeing the orange deck that specifically references sci-fi and fantasy trivia (Anyone want to see Martha Stewart armed with the One Ring battle Spock who is trapped inside a giant hamster wheel?), or the purple deck that adds an extra something to your scenarios (are you ready for a contest on a floor made of lava?).

There are some power cards that may not be suitable for all classrooms. The game is centered around fighting (some power cards involve “knife throwing,” “armed with nunchucks,” etc.). However, these violent cards can be removed from your deck, leaving the silly power cards to be used, including “afraid of their own shadow” and “drank five energy drinks.” To further remove violence, the rules advocate for changing the purpose of the debate from who would win a battle to who is the funniest or would be a better nanny. You can even decide who might make the better plumber: a racoon who is really good at parkour or King Kong who can fly at the speed of molasses? There are many ways to make Superfight appropriate for any classroom.

With the endless possibilities available with this game, students could make their own versions to enhance their classroom knowledge. How interesting would it be to play a game like this in a History class (In a contest between Alexander the Great and Napoleon, who might win?), or in an English class (Which character is more idealistic: Don Quixote or Jane Bennet?)?

Though it was one of the most amusing games I’ve ever played, as a group, we decided we might not want to play Superfight all the time; location and audience factor into the enjoyment of gameplay. However, we all agreed we would love to play this game in the future and it would be great in an educational setting!

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Spotlight on Oak Hill Middle School, Sabattus, ME


Pat Hasch introduced her 7th grade geography class to Zulama in September, 2015. We are delighted to share how she creatively blended her geography lessons with Evolution of Games.

By Pat Hasch

My 7th grade geography class is not only studying the regular course materials, but is deeply involved in Evolution of Games. One of the main learning targets is: How does where you live affect how you live?

Using Zulama, students are able to understand the culture of many places by:

  • reading the material,
  • researching,
  • playing the many different games, and
  • understanding how these games are a part of the heritage of the countries studied.

We have learned to play games, to modify them, replicate them, and appreciate the workmanship involved in creating the games. All this while learning history, geography, and about ourselves as learners and teachers.

In lesson 23 the students created a Parcheesi board. We read and discussed the lesson and assignment together. I gathered up boards for them to use to make a nice game to keep and be used for the future. As a class, the students made the scoring rubric by which they would be graded. They were actually tough on themselves, striving for near perfection.

We spent about one week of class time measuring, drawing and finalizing the product before we enjoyed playing the game. It was quite interesting to watch the students figure out how to do all the planning, measuring and drawing!

This has been their best work yet! They are all very proud of the finished product. Upon completion the students wrote a reflection about what they learned. They have really stepped it up since the beginning of the Zulama course.

India Module

By Christian St. Hilaire, 7th grade student, Oak Hill Middle School

The module on India was fascinating. I was able to retain the information better by connecting with games that I’m connected with. By showing games like Parcheesi and Chess, I was able to learn in a fun and interactive way. That is why I personally love the Zulama program. The India unit however struck my interest more than usual.

I was able to learn about ancient India by making the presentation on the Gupta Empire. It allowed me to get a basis, then move on studying. I learned so many things that I would have never learned if it wasn’t for Zulama. Being a fan of math, it was really interesting to learn that the very fundamentals of math came from the same time and place my favorite board game, Chess, was made.

The discussion on Chess helped me open up and learn about the game further. By being able to express my thoughts I was more motivated to learn and study it. Then I was able to reread and understand the section better.

Making the Parcheesi gameboard allowed me to understand more about the game itself, as well as its background. It helped me further my understanding of the Gupta Empire, and India as a whole. During the process, I had to work hard to understand how these people felt. First, I had to draw my lines precisely with a pencil. Then I had to fill them in with a permanent marker. Then I colored the spaces correctly and precisely. The pieces were provided, so I didn’t have to worry. It was a rough process that took a bit of time, but it is one that I could be proud of.

In conclusion, Zulama is an amazing way to teach kids history in a fun and interactive way. Zulama is one of the best programs that I have ever been taught on. I feel very privileged to be able to use it on a daily basis.

Engaging Students Using Game Design

Guest Post by Brian Wetzel, Zulama Certified Trainer and Star Teacher

pic04Who is not interested in games? Games build relationships, teach the concept of rules, and, in serious games, promote the idea of consequences in choices we make. Most games also provide the opportunity to spark creativity in style, gameplay, and strategy. Creating them utilizes a multitude of skills, including elements of STEAM, and other 21st century skills, such as problem-solving and collaboration.

As a game designer, one must consider all these factors when brainstorming the creation of the next big game. Whether that game is a board game, card game, or video game is irrelevant. Game designers must make their games easy to learn, hard to master, and adaptable to different styles and preferences, among other characteristics. Otherwise, a game can be doomed from the beginning.

pic07As a teacher of game design, I make every attempt to ensure my students understand these characteristics and plan for them at the beginning. Elements of STEAM present themselves instantaneously and consistently throughout the process. In the early phases of design, artistic elements are used when drawing and designing graphics that will be used in the game. Engineering skills such as 3D modeling are often considered for game pieces and/or characters. Mathematics is constantly used when deciding proper size and proportions as well as distances that are necessary to be traveled for game sprites. Finally, in most cases, technology is used for the creation of each of these pieces.

As I continue to help my students in their quests to become game designers, I hope to see consistent progression of these skills. While I do not teach traditional courses like science and math, I have already witnessed progress in the areas of curiosity and creativity. My students are growing into young adults who are more curious about their mistakes and why they are occurring. They don’t rely on me as much to explain the problem(s), but rather take it upon themselves to explore what they have done to create the problem. Most importantly, they don’t see their mistakes as failure, but rather learning experiences.

BxL9r4VIYAA9gJ6As I continue to help create the gamemakers of tomorrow, I hope to get feedback of the same fashion from their other teachers. I hope this curiosity spreads to other areas of their lives. I am sure it will. In my opinion, this growing sense of motivation and curiosity is not a switch they can turn off. It will become habit in all areas of their lives. They will continue to seek understanding rather than just ask for answers. And although they will continue to make mistakes, to them, it will only translate to more learning.

Brian Wetzel

Upon completing his undergraduate work, Brian began teaching in 2005. For the first seven years of his career, he served as a 7th grade mathematics teacher for the Licking Heights Local School District. During this time, he saw the value of technology in education and decided to pursue this interest by earning his Master’s degree in Educational Technology. Upon completing his graduate degree, Brian transitioned into teaching technology-related courses at the high school level for Centerburg Local Schools. As he continues his career, Brian plans to help students enhance their technology skills as well as help other educators learn ways to integrate technology into their curricula.