DeMello kids design board games and learn the importance of staying positive

Feb 19, 2024

In an afternoon that would’ve made Hasbro proud, DeMello Elementary students learned math skills and the importance of teamwork by designing their own, unique board games. 

The class is part of an ongoing program held on Fridays that takes a creative approach to teaching kids science and math in an environment that encourages teamwork and problem solving while keeping a positive attitude.

The program is as much about helping children build character and social skills as it is about honing their education in the the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, known collectively as STEM. 

On Friday, Feb. 16 at DeMello Elementary School, the children broke into teams to design the themes and rules for their board games. Equipped with foam dice and the game pieces they designed, the children chatted excitedly as they decorated their game boards with markers. 

Each class challenges the children to complete a project while developing a specific character trait. “Collaboration” was the focus for this session as the teams sought opportunities to compromise on how to design their board games. 

Liz Voci, an instructional technology specialist at DeMello, started the program two years ago to help children who had been isolated during the pandemic. That isolation meant that many children didn’t have the chance to learn how to interact and communicate effectively with others. 

“Coming out of the pandemic, it was an area that we needed to really focus more on as a school,” Voci said. 

The class is organized so that different grades, first through fifth, work together, which helps to build a sense of community while allowing the older kids to serve as role models for the younger grades, Voci explained. 

All of the activities are hands-on and encourage the children to think creatively and independently. Last month, the children teamed up with the high school robotics team to launch paper airplanes. In other sessions, the children designed parachutes and bubble wands using a 3D printer. 

At the end of each class, the children who displayed the best positive attitude win 3D-printed medals and their place on the school’s wall of fame. Doing this gives children a sense of pride and the chance to see themselves as successful, Voci said. 

“They’re a part of this school, and this school is a part of them,” Voci said. 

The champions on Friday were Bella Julian, fifth grade, and Paisley Boucher, fourth grade, who together designed an ocean-themed board game. Julian said the program has taught her how “to work together and be happy if things don’t go your way.”

“I like seeing new people and making friends with them,” Boucher said of why she likes the class. 

Voci said the biggest complaint she gets from teachers is that she doesn’t hold the program more often. Currently, it’s only held on Fridays. 

“It’s so much fun,” Voci said. “It’s the best way to end my Friday every week.”