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Fun & Gamers: Brooks Students Improve Critical Thinking Skills in Club

"These kids are getting life lessons and they don't even realize it," says Brooks Gamers Club co-sponsor Art Barnett.

Brooks Gamers Club co-sponsor Art Barnett instructs students on the finer points of playing board games that emphasize cognitive thinking. Credit: Larry Randa/Valley View School District
Brooks Gamers Club co-sponsor Art Barnett instructs students on the finer points of playing board games that emphasize cognitive thinking. Credit: Larry Randa/Valley View School District
The following article was submitted by Valley View School District 365U:

Ssssh! Don’t tell these Brooks Middle School students they’re learning something … they’re too busy having fun.

Every week several dozen Brooks students get together for an hour after school to play board games. No, not Monopoly, Risk, or Connect Fours. These games have names like Pandemic, Settlers of Catan, and Fluxx. 

“These games require aspiring cognitive thinkers to really think about what’s going on,” said Brooks Gamers Club Co-Sponsor Art Barnett, who teaches language arts at the Bolingbrook school. “They don’t realize they’re learning critical thinking skills because they’re just having fun.”

Barnett considers himself a board game nut, having attended the annual Gen Con gaming convention for many years and even designing one game of his own. He used to coach the chess team but switched to Gamers Club because chess “is too basic and it’s not as interesting as these games.”

Most of the games come from his vast collection at home or from co-sponsor William Nunez’ collection. And most of them were designed in Europe.

“Once I teach these students a game, they teach each other,” Barnett said. “You can do cooperative learning in a classroom at a minimal level but if you really want to know what cooperative learning is all about, you need to come to Gamers Club.”

Barnett admits it’s a challenge to convince today’s teens to put down their video games and play board games. But once they come toGamers Club “they love working together to beat the board.”

“These kids are getting life lessons and they don’t even realize it,” Barnett said. “I see the little twinkle in their eye when they walk away and I know they’ve learned something.”

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