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Learning Is More Than a Game for Frostburg State University Students, Faculty
03/03/2015

Intellect, verbal sparring, clandestine missions and persuasive acting were all part of the game this weekend in a special workshop featuring Frostburg State University history and philosophy students.

An interdisciplinary Reacting to the Past workshop held Feb. 28 to March 1 at FSU featured students and faculty playing the roles of labor and women’s rights luminaries like W.E.B. Du Bois and Margaret Sanger in a creative debate to influence their peers playing as artists and bohemians for “Greenwich Village 1913: Suffrage, Labor and the New Woman.”

Reacting to the Past participant
Frostburg State University student Adam Kriner plays Mary Heaton Vorse during a Reacting to the Past workshop held Feb. 28 to March 1 on campus.  FSU student Bobby Weatherly, right, played Elsie Clews Parson for a women's suffrage and labor rights game at the workshop.

Students and faculty volunteered their time at the workshop to show off the game to FSU faculty as well as visiting faculty from Allegany College of Maryland, Garrett College and University of Maryland Baltimore County.

“You’re not trying to change history. You’re trying to get into the perspective of your character to act and vote in the way we think they would do given their intellectual commitments,” said Dr. Shoshana Brassfield, assistant professor of philosophy.

In Reacting to the Past, students are given motives, secret objectives and a good dose of assigned reading to prepare for the game. Studying culminates in the back-and-forth role-playing for several classes, typically three to six weeks.

This back-and-forth role-playing game can take place in classrooms typically over the course of three weeks. The Honors Contemporary World in Historical Perspective class, HIST 111, will take its turn playing a game on India’s history after spring break, said Dr. Sally Boniece, professor of history.

Boniece believes the game is a great way for students to learn from beyond a lecture, providing greater interaction for honors students.

“Honors is all about interaction and students have more of a role and more autonomy in the classroom,” Boniece said.

More than a hearty debate can help win the game. Characters installed a gallery in Brassfield’s room; another produced a newspaper to influence the factions.

Greenwich Village Reacting to the Past Workshop

Speaking for the historical characters they are portraying are, from left, Communications Studies instructor Christine Willingham as Inez Milholland, FSU student Adam Kriner as Mary Heaton Vorse, FSU student Bobby Weatherly as Elsie Clews Parson Allegany College of Maryland adjunct professor Abigail Snyder as Jeannie Rogers Frost Elementary student Marcella Dodge as Marcella Bianchi and Dr. Cherie Snyder, program director for the Human Service Associate Program at Allegany College of Maryland, as Maud Preston.

“In the game, people stand up and give speeches for what their causes are and they also write and produce other things like art or a newspaper, and at the end of the game there’s a vote on the issue,” Brassfield said.

The games intertwine issues of money, economics, politics, religion, art and more, which is why faculty from finance, economics and other areas attended the workshop to see how they could integrate the experiential learning.

“It’s really unlike studying something from afar,” Brassfield said. “You feel like it’s you that has to make these decisions.”

Faculty can also create their own games and be published by W.W. Norton & Co., an independent publisher that works with Barnard College on the peer-reviewed games.

Frostburg State University is a founding member of the Reacting Consortium – an alliance of colleges and universities that develops and publishes the Reacting to the Past series. The consortium members also value and promote imagination, inquiry and engagements as foundations in teaching and student learning. More than 350 colleges and universities around the world use the game developed by Barnard College professor of history Mark C. Carnes.

The workshop was funded by the Martha T. and Ralph M. Race Western History Lecture Fund through the FSU Foundation and the FSU President’s Experiential Learning Fund, Office of the Provost and Faculty Development and Sabbatical Subcommittee.

For further information on this release, contact:

Office of News and Media Services
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD  21532-2303

Telephone: 301-687-3171
Fax: 301-687-7589
E-mail: news@frostburg.edu