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Feb. 12, 2016
Kindergarten students at Northwest Missouri State University’s Horace Mann Laboratory School recently were game testers for an afternoon when Northwest alumna and author Amy Houts visited the classroom to introduce a game she developed.
The board game, “Find my Heart,” centers on the predicament of the Teddy Bear Mail Carrier, whose valentine cards have blown out of his mail truck on a windy February day and littered a neighborhood. The mail carrier is worried the valentine cards won’t be delivered and needs help with collecting them.
That’s where the children in Nancy Farlow’s kindergarten class came in. The game players roll the die to move through the neighborhood, working together to collect the cards and return them to the Teddy Bear Mail Carrier’s mail truck.
“It’s excellent to be able to have people in the community who have resources and talents, and bring them into our classroom to enrich our curriculum and enrich the things we’re doing,” Farlow said. “It’s phenomenal. We love to have those opportunities.”
“Find My Heart” stands apart from other board game because it is cooperative. All of the players work together and the game concludes with everyone winning – or losing – at the same time.
Houts is an author of more than 60 books and launched a publishing company, Houts & Home Publications LLC, in 2011. But she was unfamiliar with the concept of cooperative games until she began working with a game company in 2012 and learning about the benefits.
Houts believes there is a place for both competitive and cooperative games, and she points to research that shows cooperative games help prevent bullying.
“I believe cooperative games deserve a bigger place in schools,” Houts said, recalling one parent who played her ‘Preschooler in the Kitchen’ game, which educates children about healthy food and kitchen skills, and was surprised a cooperative game could be so fun. “You don't need to be competitive to have fun. It's great for everyone to win at the same time, to have a feeling of connection, and to celebrate together rather than just one person winning.”
Northwest art students have joined the fun, too. Since 2013, Houts has researched and developed 10 games, and Northwest art students have assisted with the designs of five of them.
Houts brought her idea for “Find My Heart” to one of Craig Warner’s digital imaging and graphic design classes in the fall of 2014, and seven students submitted ideas for the game board and pieces.
Kyle Bown, a senior from Prole, Iowa, with an interactive digital media major and visual imaging emphasis, designed the game board as well as the Teddy Bear Mail Carrier and the valentine heart cards. Autumn Barnett, who earned her bachelor’s degree in art from Northwest last spring, designed the mail truck, and Tressa Akins, a senior art major from New Cambria, Missouri, designed the heart dice.
“I got actual experience in dealing with and working independently for a client,” Bown said of the design experience. “I went on to work on two more game boards for her so it offered experience in creating work for a client as opposed to just making work for a class.”
Houts plans to publish “Find My Heart” in a consumable book form that parents or teachers can cut, tape and use at home or in a classroom.
“I had a great experience working with Northwest students on my games,” Houts said. “They are so creative, talented and willing to work.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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