My family really enjoys playing games. I grew up playing the card game, Pitch, with my cousins and later became obsessed with a variety of games ranging from the strange board game, 13 Dead End Drive, to the popular video game, Donkey Kong Junior, to the piece de resistance, Cho Dai Di (aka The Big Two or Chinese poker). A large group of our family and friends even created our own silly names that we use when we play games. And I’m not sure if I should be embarrassed or proud to share that we had a substantial Cho Dai Di tournament at our wedding and that my husband, Ben, wrote a song commemorating all the players’ card names (think Fifi Larue and Sideline Twyla).
Of course, our 4-year-old daughter, Shanti, loves games as much as we do. Here’s a recent conversation we had in the car. For context, it may be helpful to know that we happen to have several people in our life named Dan.
Shanti: I have a challenge for you. Which Dan is the best Dan in the universe?
Okay, so that’s a pretty terrible game, and we said so. Here’s what she said next.
Shanti: Your next challenge is a riddle. What’s easy to lose but not easy to find?
Her answer was sunglasses. We didn’t guess correctly, but she let us have this one.
Shanti: You’ve won a trip to the Isle of Fairies!
I bring this up not to gloat about winning such a thrilling reward (though, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want a trip to the Isle of Fairies?!), but to illustrate just how exciting the prospect of creating a game would be to my husband and me. And when we were first told about the opportunity to work on the SCGLR website event using Debra Jacob’s scavenger hunt concept, we were ready to be possibilitarians. Game on!
Working with the capable and creative team of Stacy Sternberg and Abbie Roland, our first challenge was creating the game itself. How can we create a fun and experiential event and still make certain this is a learning opportunity? How can we incorporate a virtual scavenger hunt using the new Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading website and keep it as playful as one of our favorite games?
The idea came out of the ether…what if we race around the website and parody The Amazing Race?! For those who don’t know, The Amazing Race is a multi-Emmy Award-winning reality series on CBS where contestants race around the world. In truth, the hubs and I don’t actually watch The Amazing Race (though our moms did audition together once as a “mother-in-law” team, that’s another story), but we always thought it would be a fun game to play.
The parody quickly took form with Beth Duda leading the charge, hubby Ben agreeing to play the game host, Connor LaGrange managing the point system and prizes, and Kiara Louis and Hannah Saeger Karnei going above and beyond technical support as full-on zoom magician and wizard.
With an exceptional team at the helm, The Amazing Race: SCGLR Style! came together even better than we anticipated. Not only did the contestants (all SCGLR members + Nancy Henry and Stacey Gadeken) work together as teams and race to explore the new website and solve challenges based on the content, but it was truly amazing! And even though we were on zoom and a lot of us (okay, I’m talking about myself) were managing zoom exhaustion, it felt like we shared an immersive experience. This is meaningful considering that I’ve never even met most of the people we work with in person yet. It reminded me of how impactful play can be. Yes, our work has gravity, but we can approach challenges with levity, particularly in hard times. It can help us learn and share and connect. It makes experiences more memorable.
For example, who will forget creating haikus out of THIS BOOK IS COOL webisode titles? It was bond building and plain old fun! Thank you to The Patterson Foundation for investing in the joy of learning and highlighting how important it is to #MakeEveryDayaLearningDay.
As Mr. Rogers said, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”
We hope you’re ready to play!