MindLab – Teach Thinking with Board Games


MindLab is a program for teaching problem solving and thinking skills with board games. My friend Avram, of Evolvems fame, turned me onto this program. I have not seen their program in action, but I met with the folks in charge of NYC MindLab, and was very impressed with their spiel.

The main idea is: you teach kids how to play any one of 200 games they have collected. Once the kids get the feel for the game and are struggling to master it, you step in and show them one of a dozen problem-solving methods MindLab has identified. They have cute names to help memorization and discussion. The kids learn the method quickly and then you move them to a second game. When the kids see this strategy works in two games, the method starts to stick in their brain. But the final and most important step is to transfer these methods to general life situations.

One method they described was the Stoplight method. The stoplight method is three steps: red, yellow and green. When you are playing your game, first do red: stop what you are thinking about (usually your next move) and think instead about our opponent. What is he thinking about? What move would he like to do. Yellow is to consider a counter-move. Finally with Green you choose your move, either a defense or an attack.

This method sounds fantastic—it’s an vital strategy for any competitive game. But it can be applied so much more broadly. Imagine a conflict with a classmate. The “red light” step is to put yourself in your opponent’s shoes. Consider how he sees the situation and figure out what his move might be. But this is exactly what conflict resolution courses teach—think about the other’s position. Once you can see the other person’s point of view, most conflicts can be resolved peacefully. Those that cannot, can be more successfully fought.

The stoplight method and dozens more are part of the MindLab curriculum. But in the end, it all comes down to the teachers. A great teacher will find teaching moments everywhere. The best curriculum in the hands of a poor teacher will just be boring with lots of wasted time.


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