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A polka-dotted duck is used as a player's piece in the board game "Survivor". Just one of the many games the kids have created while a part of the board game-making summer class at Century Elementary School in Grand Forks. (Luke Franke/ Grand Forks Herald)2 / 3
San Jose, Calif. native Mino Machado (far right) smile while playing the WWE Smack Down game he and his friends created as a part of the board game-making summer class at Century Elementary School. (Luke Franke/ Grand Forks Herald)3 / 3

Three young boys lay sprawled across a classroom floor in Grand Forks recently as they played a game called “WWE Smack Down.”

Created by fellow classmate, Mino Machado, 10, and designed in the spirit of the wrestling empire, the goal of the game was simple: Get to the end of the winding path to become the next World Wrestling Entertainment champion.

“That was close, Mino,” said Jack Miller, 10, as Machado narrowly missed landing on a spot that would have sent him back six spaces.

As part of the summer school offerings at Century Elementary School, students happily rotated groups and games. While it’s clearly a fun class, Century teacher Tim Rygh also hopes to challenge students’ critical thinking skills, creativity and their patience, he said.

“It also brings in a great amount of social aspects that our society is losing” at a time when many students are more focused on technology, he said.

Challenging creativity

In the class, students play a mix of classic and self-created games.

This teaches them how to develop strategy and persevere while learning new games, said Rygh. They also rate each other’s games by originality, complexity, design and other metrics.

Rygh got the idea after he’d read a fantasy book series to his class and thought he could design a game for his students. He thought this class could challenge higher-level thinking students and give them a different understanding of competition, he said.

Educators can use competition to teach students how to lose well, he said.

“Just play the game — did you enjoy it? Did you have a blast?” he said. “Did the other team win? Congratulate them.”

Games ranged in difficulty level and style. Liam Matheney, 10, created a complicated game based on soccer, with each player managing its own team of pieces, while Marshal Buelow, 11, came up with “Jail Escape” and “Jail Escape 2,” slightly reminiscent of “The Game of Life.” Once players successfully dodge attempts by cops to throw them back in jail during the first game, players can move on to the sequel to get a job, a home, a credit card and a car.

Students said they enjoyed the chance to be creative and the creativity of others. Machado’s game, for instance, was adorned with hand-colored wrestlers and included a stack of hand-colored cards with the “WWE” logo. Sean Clement, 10, appreciated the cards because they slowed player progress, he said.

Although they still like playing games on their cell phones, Rygh challenges them in a great way with the games, they said.

“Instead of having you play a game you already know how to play, he wants to give you a game you don’t know how to play,” said Jack Miller, 10.  

Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson is the K-12 education reporter for The Grand Forks Herald.  Contact her if you have any story ideas or tips and visit 

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