Masters Thesis Proposal

THESIS PROPOSAL:

HOW WILL WILD CRAFT PLAY RE-ENGAGE AND (RE)PLACE ADOLESENTS’ INTO NATURE? IS “GAME THEORY” THE SOLUTION TO MORE RESILIENT YOUTH?

JAMIE BLACK

A thesis proposal submitted in partial fulfillment of

the requirements for the degree of

MASTER OF ARTS

in

ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION AND COMMUNICATION

School of Environment and Sustainability

ROYAL ROADS UNIVERSITY

June 2014

 

 

Abstract

Wild Craft Play is a real-world, nature-based role-play game concept that teachers and program leaders can use to engage children in active, nature-based activities.  This thesis will assess whether the prototype is successful based on the participant observation and feedback from the parents and children from the Boys and Girls Club of Central Vancouver Island (BGCCVI).  This feasibility and formative evaluation will be carried out through a series of enacted game experiences; when the children are strongly engaged; and when the BGCCVI staff and board are interested in the overall concept of the game.   This game is meant to give teachers and leaders the tools to be a confident leader in the more natural outdoor experiences. Outdoor experiences refers to activities facilitated in the places that are further than the cut lawn and manicured gardens to more wild places where branches can poke, roots can trip, and unexpected holes can twist ankles.  Other objectives of Wild Craft Play are to teach life-skills to children such as; encourage physical challenges; community service initiatives; inspire writing and research; enhance financial awareness; engage in entrepreneurship and instill the basics of environmental stewardship.  The prototype will be considered a success if the production, feedback and personal assessment meet or exceed the needs and interests of the parents and children involved in the program.

 

 

 

Background

I believe that we are in a new age of technology that is more captivating for children than nature is, and I think this may create a real problem for the sustainability of our Earth.  I would like to bring your attention specifically to those video games with the objective to destroy nature, cut down trees, kill animals, other humans or zombies.  It makes one wonder, whatever happened to the fascination of a butterfly, or the excitement of minos nibbling at your toes while standing in the cool lake water? I have been an outdoor enthusiast my whole life.  I am a coach, a guide, a mentor and an environmental educator, practicing for over 15 years. I have been fascinated by the fact that children are growing less interested in the mystery of nature, and craving video games.  Rather than assuming why, I would like to explore my theory of using a virtual board game concept to captivate the children and inspire them to turn nature into their video game.

Back in 2008, I was inspired by my curiosity, and developed a children’s summer camp that was sponsored with some government seed money.  It was called the Sacred Storyteller, based on a board game that I had purchased, and it was held in Errington, British Columbia.  We were privileged to receive enough funding to hire a skilled martial arts instructor as the lead instructor, as well as another teacher, and one youth in training.  The objective was to take the concepts of the board game; Memory, Treasure Hunt, Mind Mix-up, and Ultimate Tag, and find a way to turn it into a real field game that stretched across not only the field but the playground of the Errington Community School.  This project was inspired by a few concepts.  The moral of the story in Bridge to Terabithia, where the children learn life skills in nature to conquer the perils of school-life.  This was coupled with my own personal experience of playing World of Warcraft for nearly 6 months.  ( http://us.battle.net/wow/en/)

Although I used to boycott Gaming most of my life, I found myself highly addicted to this game and became a 21 year old Druid with a white Bangel tiger as my companion.  I killed dear and beasts for their Hyde and the treasures in their guts, and traded those treasures for necessary resources to accomplish the next quest.  Then I had to start working in a guild, where I had to partner with different characters, have good communication, and fast tactics to stay alive while killing the master beasts in the caves.  My heart rate would go up, I would lose all track of the real world, and time would fly by.  There were some times where I was lost in the game for over 6 hours, not having moved anything but my fingers for that amount of time.

I soon realized that my body was taking a toll and my social life was going down the drain, so I let go of the addiction, but I didn’t lose the attraction to the idea of that level of excitement and engagement in “Gaming.”  This is what propelled me into what is now called Wild Craft Play.  For over 5 years, I have collected, enhanced, altered, manipulated and built this concept of a real-life-experienced game that has treasures of gold, made out of spray painted poker chips, quests that look like scrolls, sacred journals and clues, pouches, sacred market places, travelling trade posts, wild craft workshops and more.

This journey of this thesis research is to delve into the concept of this game, tear it apart and re-construct it, re-define what it is and why it is so engaging.  At a glance, I believe it is because of my ability as a storyteller, because ultimately all of the props are free-cycled, and useless, unless there is a story to create the intrigue.  But I won’t start there.  I will start from the beginning of what I created, why I created it, where it came from, what I changed, and where it’s going.

 

My mission is to get more children outdoors, and I am challenging whether or not it is up to leaders and teachers to make that happen.  If so, I want to explore how Wild Craft Play can help leaders and teachers do this.

At first I was overwhelmed because I didn’t know what the buttons meant, what I was supposed to do, or how I was supposed to “attack,” but with help from Youtube and friends, I figured things out quickly and was sucked into “The Gaming World.”  Without getting into detail about my experience now, I use this intro to entice the imagination to wonder what this has to do with nature.  If you saw the forests, mythical creatures, quests, challenges, teamwork, communication, challenges, commitments and resources I had to play with, you would understand why gaming is so engaging.  This intrigued me because I was hooked, and became so engaged in the game that I (an earth muffin) spent more time in the game than in real nature.  I was fascinated.  What made this virtual game so engaging? Why do children get hooked?  And why is there a Mothers Against World of Warcraft?

At some point, I realized that I needed to cease gaming, and get back to reality, and in the transitions of my life, I was handed an opportunity in 2008 to create a children’s summer camp.  After receiving a large grant, we produced a week long day camp that cost $25 to attend.  As you can imagine the lower income families came, who tended to have higher behavior issues.  With these challenges, and the issues of a prototype of a game, the children were more engaged, and the camp was more successful than I could have expected, with five year old girls “gaming” with ten year old boys, and everyone got along.  This was a feat, and from that week on, I continued to grow, morph, embellish, change and craft what is now called “Wild Craft Play.”

This research paper is meant to dive in to this Wild Craft Play game and ask the questions; what makes this program, Wild Craft Play, so engaging? What is the true objective? What are the potential outcomes? How can it be packaged in a way that will help leaders create more engaging programming and get children into nature more?  What are the tangible, measurable outcomes?  What are the pedagogical principles, and how did this curriculum organically come to be?  Where is this curriculum going, and how can it work with the education system, and the technology of today?

I have a few biases that are potential flaws in this research.  I believe that we need to get children into nature more, and detach them from video games. I also believe that we can learn from the genius minds of video game makers to figure out ways to engage children in nature based play.  I think that technology is the way of the future, and it makes our lives easier, and more able to be in nature, and yet I believe that we, as leaders, need the skills of captivating through theatrical play and storytelling that leaves the children wanting more.  This has been a long journey of what I call Guided Discovery that has brought me to an interest in mastering the art of nature based play and storytelling. This is an auto-ethnographical paper that explores how my game, Wild Craft Play, can be a unique way for leaders to engage children in nature-based play.

I believe there to be a low occurrence of leaders taking children into nature, and I am unsure why.  The intention of this research is to generate a deep understanding of the culture of Play, as a leader and as children, through the medium of my game Wild Craft Play.

 

Questions

How will I know if the Wild Craft Play Game is worthy of being implemented into the education system?

Are the expected outcomes correct?

Are there other unexpected outcomes?

Is this program a quality program, and if so is it worthy of being marketed to the education system?

What are the pedagogical principals behind this game?

 

Timeline

Nov – Dec 2014
  • Refine the game Wild Craft Play so that it is in a somewhat finished format
  • Determine a way to evaluate the quality of Wild Craft Play
Jan – Jun 2015
  • Play Wild Craft Play with a group of children and video record and document during participant observation
  • Hold a Formative Evaluation with a group dialogue including children and their parents
July – Sept 2015
  • Synthesize data and complete Thesis

 

 

 

Methods

The basic approach to this research is to actively engage in the game with children and parents, and document in multiple ways, as well as gain feedback and insight from all involved.  This will include the children, ages 8-12 and their parents at the Boys and Girls Club of Central Vancouver Island, the sponsors of this research.

The style of research used for this paper will be mixed-methods. The qualitative portion will be a formative feasibility study. The quantitative portion will be a simple before and after online survey.  I will use participant observation (Jorgensen, 1989), analyzing the data and confirming its validity by comparing and relating the results with reliable literature in the field.  This research will occur from fall of 2014 until the summer of 2015.

The core sample group will be a club of 15 to 20 children and 4 or 5 willing parents. The selection of the core sample group will receive an invitation letter, and upon response, a consent letter will be delivered to the candidates.  The candidates are expected to commit to 2 focus groups and 2 questionnaires over the span of 6 months.  Permission will be obtained by the candidates and their parents for this process, and they will be informed that they are permitted to leave the process at any time.

 


Bibliography

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