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Innovations in Education

Game simulates the work of the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary powers to teach politics

Around 800 students and 100 teachers have already used the Politics Game, which was released in June and aims to debate the subject with high school youngsters

by Fernanda Nogueira 07/13/2017

A game that simulates the true-life problems of the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary was the solution social organizations found to teach politics to young Brazilians. The Politics Game was created two years ago after the results of the Sonho Brasileiro da Política survey found that of 64% of 1,400 interviewees aged between 18 and 32 found that politics should be discussed in schools.

From this information, researchers Carla Mayumi and Beatriz Pedreira, responsible for the study, got together with the Enóis Inteligência Jovem journalism school agency and the LabHacker digital culture lab, represented by social activist Pedro Markun, and created, with the help of a designer, a prototype of the methodology to teach politics in schools.

Three games were created, one for each “power”, during immersion sessions with youngsters of different ages and from social classes. Last year educator Denise Curi brought her pedagogical coordinating skills to the group and created a manual for teachers. Since then, some 800 students and 100 educators have used the game, which was officially launched at São Paulo City Hall on June 2 of this year.

Each game has its own dynamics. In the Executive game, young people learn how to organize and distribute the budget of a city. Firstly they imagine how they would divide up the available amount in the best way. Then, they have to deal with the financial restrictions – they cannot take money from welfare programs or the salaries of public workers, for example. They realize they have to make difficult choices, which reflect the worldview of each participant.

In the Legislative module, their task is to create new laws. Photos allow them to see which laws are being complied with or not. There is a discussion about the laws which govern our lives and where they are written down. The young people are invited to rewrite ten laws for an imaginary city. They have to debate and discover which laws are fundamental and essential. They need to argue to explain the motivation behind their choices and write clearly. In doing so, they realize the difficulties involved in the work of a councilor or a member of Congress. They also divide themselves into parties and vote along party lines.

The Judiciary game deals with criminal justice. The judge, prosecution, accusation, defense, jury and press are present in a fictitious trial. Each one performs his role. There is evidence, proof, clues and suspicions. The students have to write down, argue and explain their ideas. Among other issues, they discuss such issues as the power of the media and truth.

“It’s an interdisciplinary game which addresses the complexity of politics in a practical way. It shows how the rules of the game work, the difficulties, the practical issues, the reality. It simulates political work and develops empathy for politics and for politicians. Young people learn who is responsible for what. In a moment of crisis like today, especially in politics, it is fundamental to understand how to make critiques and choices,” explains Denise Curi.

According to the educator, the game is aligned with the four UNESCO pillars of education: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live and learning to be. It also ties in with the cognitive axes of the National High School Examination (ENEM) – mastering languages, understanding phenomena, tackling problem situations, constructing arguments and making proposals.

In the test phase, the game was taken to a number of cities in Brazil. In São Paulo it was trialed at public schools like Amélia Kerr State School and Caetano de Campos State School, and private institutions, like Madre Cabrini College, known as “Bandeirantes” – where the students suggested the creation of a fourth game, about elections – and the Nossa Senhora das Graças School, known as “Gracinha”, as well as institutions like the Instituto Alana and the CTC Digital NGO. “Talking to schools and universities about how they are thinking about integrating the game in their curriculums was wonderful. It’s what we dreamt of,” says Carla Mayumi.

In the cities of Gavião Peixoto (São Paulo) and Monte Carmelo (Minas Gerais), the game arrived on the Hacker bus, from the Hacker Lab, as part of a journey which would finish in the capital, Brasília in August 2015. In Gavião Peixoto, a group of students from a public school tried out the Legislative game. The teenagers discussed the problems of a town of 4,400 and talked about which themes they thought were most important – education and abandoned animals. Then they wrote proposed laws, sought signatures among the citizens of the town, and went to the Town Hall. “We took the group to the Council Chambers. They said that they wanted to register their proposed laws. In one way or another, the councilors are going to have to discuss the issues” says Amanda Rahra, co-founder of Enois.

This year, Denise Curi and Pedro Markun took the game to the Pedagogy in Parliament Mission event in Brasília. The project was presented to 60 educators from public schools across Brazil. “Now we are especially focusing on teacher education. We believe that the most important thing is that the game stays in schools, so that they don’t have to call us every year. The teacher can learn, add it to his or her subject, create projects with other teachers, work hard with the whole school. It is a project of political education, for democracy and citizenship,” says Denise.

There are proposals for the implementation of the project being analyzed by city councils, higher education institutions and political parties, among others. “There are many NGOs and foundations that work with educators who are interested. In São Miguel Paulista (in the east of São Paulo), they want to use it with residents to discuss neighborhood needs. The game was designed with schools and high school students in mind, but it isn’t limited to them. We can talk to adults, university students, site foremen, doctors, lawyers. Some of them play it and say ‘I didn’t know that,’” says Carla.

The Politics Game can be downloaded for free from the site. There is also the option to buy a box set for R$250. Those interested can arrange sessions with facilitators, such as for teacher training, workshops to introduce the game and the application of the methodology.

*Translated by James Young


games, high school, Interdisciplinarity