Do Board Games Have a Place in Education?

Lately, there has been a lot of discussion around gamifying the classroom, from classroom management apps like Classroom Dojo, to gamifying curriculum milestones. But what about good ol’ board games? You know, the ones that you play with other people, that come with a box with nifty cards or playing pieces? Do board games have a place in education? With their requirements for critical thinking, problem-solving, analysis, reasoning, communication and collaboration skills – not to mention being able to win and lose with grace –  board games bring to life what is often hard to teach.

Modern vs Traditional Board Games

It is hard to ignore the comeback of board games over the past decade or so. There are many examples: board game nights, themed cafés and bars. The art of the game is alive and well, and taking place off screens for the most part, and in connection with real live people. New, modern board games are often a far cry from the luck-based games we all know, like Monopoly, Chutes and Ladders, or Sorry. Also, they are often far more accessible than a skill-based game like chess.

Modern board games are where fun and intellectual development meet. When players are immersed in an authentic game, they surrender themselves to the modified rules of its world. Activities that would normally be met with disdain in the context of schoolwork are happily completed within the game. This is because an authentic game provides structured competition, recreation and intellectual challenge all in one package.

Modern Board Games in the Classroom

Settlers of CatanIf you bring to the table an authentic game, which also happens to have curricular connections, then you have something powerful. Students can see through educational games as another worksheet in disguise and they can get put off. With authentic games, the students are eager to succeed at the game and to do so, they quite naturally utilize many cognitive skills, such as critical thinking, pattern recognition, logical reasoning, etc.

It is the same power that drives “real-world” connections in the classroom. As educators, we try to make real-world connections to the content we are teaching so that the lesson has more meaning and context for the students. Games create that context through well-developed themes and so, meaning materializes as the students strive to succeed in this brave new world with its unique set of rules. This is just one of the important connections board games have to the concept of Deep Learning. The following is an example of this.

In the game Diamant, players pretend to be adventurers who explore a cave that is filled with valuable treasure…and traps. Players make choices simultaneously, with players deciding if they will continue to push on further into the cave with the aim of eventually leaving with more treasure than their opponents. Higher risk and higher reward.

Once players have made their choice to continue into the cave or leave with the treasures they have already found, a new cave card is revealed, either displaying an amount of treasure that must be shared between the players still in the cave, or a trap which can potentially end the round, forcing any players in the cave to lose all the treasures they have found that round. With the simple mechanism of “push your luck”, the game provides an opportunity to practice division and probability while encouraging imagination, cooperation, and fun.

Social Development

Board games develop students’ social skills by enhancing the affective need for friendship and socialization as well as collaboration among peers. They teach students how to resolve conflict in a safe environment since the rules of the game will dictate the appropriate course of action. Playing games helps students communicate and collaborate (play nice, win nice, lose nice). Students can learn how to accept loss as well as victory. For students who have difficulty in social situations, games can provide a less stressful way to interact socially with their peers and can help those peers develop empathy.Girl Contemplates the World

In terms of Deep Learning, a sense of belonging has been shown to play a pivotal role in learning. Playing a board game with other students creates an almost ideal social situation, ripe with opportunity to connect and help one another even though the game objective may be competitive, since understanding and running the game properly requires teamwork. Face-to-face interaction provides meaningful connections with others, reducing some of the emotional strain some children may be feeling, thereby encouraging a safe environment.

We have successfully incorporated regular board game play in the EMSB Strengthening Educational and Emotional Development (SEEDS) classroom. Students in this class have a variety of social, emotional, and behavioural difficulties. The changes we have observed in these students have been remarkable.Mancala, traditional African board game The amount of teachable situations that arise when playing a board game provide ample opportunity to work on specific skills such as self-regulation, cooperation, communication, and other unwanted behaviours.

Again, situations that would normally result in overtly aggressive reactions (skipping turns, moving another player piece, taking a game component someone else wanted, losing, etc.) are resolved with less and less need for intervention. The students have been able to express themselves rationally, work through upsetting situations calmly, and participate fully with one another. The students also had the opportunity to teach the games they have learned to the rest of the school and have invited the school community to participate in a family board game night that they will be hosting.

In Conclusion

With a variety of game mechanics such as Roll and Move, Worker Placement, Role Selection, Simultaneous Action, Open Movement, Set Collection, Cooperative Play etc., modern games force players to interpret, inquire, explore and act based on information from many sources. I believe that we can bridge the inherent learning potential of game play with the regular instructional program.

This is a guest post by Matt Pinchuk. Matt Pinchuk who is a West Island entrepreneur who has launched the website, which seeks to give students the opportunity to learn through play, intellectually and socially, using modern board games.
You can contact him at: mattpinchuk[at]gmail[dot]com

Inside Birding: How community partnerships can ignite student curiosity

“Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?”

-David Attenborough, The Life of Birds

This is the story of how an adult with a passion for birds and a dedicated teacher can get kids hooked on learning about the world around them, giving them the chance to follow their natural curiosity in and outside of the classroom.

Over the last three years, Maureen Caissy, a teacher at Cedar Street School in the town of Beloeil (Riverside School Board) partnered with Sheldon Harvey, a member of Bird Protection Quebec (BPQ). Together, they have been capturing the imagination and engagement of her split grade 4 and 5 students through the simple pleasure of bird watching, linking habitat conservation, biology and art with the joy of getting outside and exploring.

It all started when Brian Peddar, the Community Development Agent for the Richelieu Valley Community Learning Centre connected the school with Sheldon Harvey, a local member of Bird Protection Quebec, a provincial charity dedicated to bird conservation and education. Sheldon is a passionate bird watcher and a natural storyteller; he is one of those people whose passion is contagious. When Maureen’s students listened to Sheldon talk about the many birds that lived in their community and how they could identify them, the students were hooked.

Maureen knew that observing birds in their natural environment would be a natural next step and an essential part of keeping the students engaged. So after applying for, and receiving, a small grant from BPQ, the class bought and installed a well-constructed bird feeder outside their window and started watching visiting birds with the help of binoculars and a digital camera to quickly snap a photo, allowing the class to zoom in and study the bird once it had flown away.

Once the initial spark of curiosity was there, the students continued learning about birds using educational resources developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Cornell has a great app called Merlin Bird ID that helps identify birds. The app asks questions and narrows down the possibilities to a few choices based upon the season and location of the bird sighting.

“I’d be teaching and then all of a sudden a kid would yell out ‘Bird!’ and all the kids would flock to the window”. Maureen, being one of those teachers who could recognize a learning opportunity, was not thrown off by the brief rush of excitement and enthusiasm of a bird visitor to the class feeder.

From there Maureen set up learning stations which allowed students to learn more about bird identification, peruse books about bird species, how to use binoculars, a camera and how to identify birds using the Merlin app. Students also worked with bird journals which they used to collect data and record the birds that they were observing.

Maureen also engaged parents and families by sending home a list of local birds, including rare birds that could be found in the region. Students were provided with bird journals which they were able to take home. She wanted to keep the observation of birds “old school”, consciously keeping the students off smartphones while they were outside. She showed them how to use the journal to record the location of the sighting, the exact time of day, the habitat, size of the bird and what the bird was doing.

Over time, most kids used binoculars at home and had bird feeders installed in their backyards. Using the journal wasn’t seen as a homework assignment, but something fun they could do. “They all started to draw these amazing pictures and keeping track of the birds they were seeing. They were so naturally curious, they started learning all the bird names on their own”.

“We did a backyard bird count, [an activity promoted by BPQ], and when we went around the school we saw about 20 different types of birds. The kids knew all their names and this all just happened because they were genuinely curious and interested, it was really fun”.

Another highlight was the field trips to a local park. Sheldon brought one or two guides with him, and clear expectations were given to the students about bird watching etiquette, like “you can’t be loud or you will scare the birds away.” 

Brian Peddar who helped tie the partnership together explained that he saw students “out in the environment in nature, looking through scopes, being little scientists”. He also added that many parents join students on field trips, which “is kind of special and inspires bird feeders [at home]”!

According to Maureen, during the bird watching trip, Sheldon was able to keep the students attention, they were really curious as he talked about the birds that could be found around the park. “Some kids were furiously writing down notes!”

During the field trip, students saw flocks of birds landing in water. They also got the chance to use a powerful spotting scope and learned how to position it.

Maureen points out that since the birds are always there, it is a great topic to focus on throughout the school year, providing numerous opportunities to engage students while addressing multiple curricular goals.

Listen to Maureen Caissy discuss the project:


Classroom Activities Curriculum links
Build a parabolic dish out of a garbage can To explore the world of science and technology

Experiments with sound, listening to birds (science experiments)

Learning about habitats Research projects, theme of animals and classification system.
Bird counts and other citizen science projects Observing something in nature, collecting data.
Studying where the birds are coming from and being aware of the long distance birds are flying Territory maps and scaling
Bird Journals Using language to communicate and learn, writing information texts


About Bird Protection Quebec (BPQ)

Bird Protection Quebec (BPQ) was founded in 1917 and is one of the oldest bird conservation oriented charities in Canada. Part of their mission is to educate the public about bird and habitat conservation. As a way to fulfill their mission, they offer modest grants to help schools and community organizations get involved and participate in bird watching.

Here at LEARN, we are thankful that BPQ and people like Sheldon are available to work with teachers to help expose young people to real-world learning opportunities that can’t be found in a text book.

In fact, the whole family can join in on the fun by attending one of BPQ’s free weekly birding field trips, hosted in and around the Montreal area.

To learn more about BPQ and its services, visit their website.

This bird has flown

So, that’s it! I wanted to share this story of how a teacher and a community partner got their students really jazzed up about learning through real-world experiences.

I’m telling you this, because I’m inspired by the image of young people across the province really getting engaged in bird watching. As a teacher interested in the environment, bird watching is a natural and positive entry point to begin observing nature, experiencing the intrinsic importance of habitat preservation and observing biodiversity.

If you would like to hear more about great projects that engage students in engaging with their local environment, I invite you to join our new LEARN Community Service Learning page. It is a space to learn, share and be inspired by engaging projects that see students addressing authentic community needs.

How can I learn more?

Join us for a webinar on Wednesday, March 13th from 3:45-4:45 pm. Cedar Street teachers Maureen, Nadine and BPQ member Sheldon will share more stories and there will be time for questions. Click here to register.

Teacher Appreciation – There’s More to Teaching Than What Happens in the Classroom!

When we picture educators, perhaps we most often usually imagine them in a classroom full of students, in front of a whiteboard, or working at a desk. Many of the teachers highlighted this week, are also appreciated for what they do outside of the classroom walls. Whether the teacher coaches sports, organizes clubs, or engages students in community activities, builds confidence along with academic skills or is an expert in home-school communication and connection, all of those highlighted below have stood out as AWESOME to the families who took time to send messages of appreciation this week. There is more to learning than what happens in the classroom!

Highlighted teachers:”Keep doing what you are doing!”  Thank you!

Lindsay Woodman, Pontiac High School, WQSB

Ms. Woodman not only teaches French but encourages kindness and compassion for others in a fun way. Her students were expected to write letters to people that were affected by the Tornado last fall. Along with all their heartfelt letters, her classes made different types of cookies to donate as well. A simple gesture to show others that THEY CARE. At Christmas time, she repeated this but it was given to the elders at a Senior Home in our Community. Small acts of kindness can mean the world to a person on the receiving end.

As well as encouraging our children to be kind, she offers help to her students who need review or are struggling in class. I feel Ms. Woodman goes above and beyond her teacher duties. In my opinion, this makes her one of the best!

Photo provided by nominator


Anik Verner-Bernard, Gault Institute, NFSB

Anik on paper is a Grade 6 teacher; however, at Gault Institute she is much more than that. She is an innovative thinker, a dreamer, an active community citizen, a go-getter, an adventurer- a person that makes things happen.


Anik piloted cooking club at Gault, and is involved in homework club, drama club and student council. She wants what is best for the school and is not afraid to apply, apply and apply again for grants in order to make something happen. She believes students can learn from alternative and outside of classroom experiences. It takes a community to raise a child and Anik is a major part of our school community. The students and staff are lucky to be around her energy each day.


Will McGowan, LEARN Tutoring

Nima loves Mr. McGowan because he is able to relate to him. Mr. McGowan is also very flexible to what is important to Nima from week to week.

Finally, as a dad when I have a suggestion Mr. McGowan builds it in to his lesson plan, and I and the teachers can see the results in Nima’s ability and confidence.

Keep It Up and Happy Teachers’ Day!

Sean Cassin, Heritage Regional High School, RSB

You know a teacher is awesome when your child comes home and states, “I really like Mr. Cassin!” When asked why Mr. Cassin was so awesome, my son expressed, “Well…he knows what I do. Like, he knows my sports schedule”.

My son is fortunate to have Mr. Cassin as his basketball program coach, his school team basketball coach and for other classroom subjects. It’s teachers like Mr. Cassin that keep students engaged in school and support them to be the best they can be. Thank you, Mr. Cassin!

Beth Watson, Pinewood Elementary, SWLSB

“Describe why this teacher is SO awesome:”

EVERYTHING! She’s awesome in every way possible! My son has grown so much confidence in his class. All the children love her! She is strict but fair. It shows she loves her career!

Aurore Chanteigner, Edward Murphy School, EMSB

This teacher is so awesome because she takes time with students that need an extra push. She’s helped my daughter Nadia a lot.

Fallon Vechsler, Pinewood Elementary, SWLSB

Miss V is devoted, patient, kind, encourages the students.
She is appreciated by students and parents!

Heather Craig, Heritage Regional High School, RSB

Ms. Craig is my son’s grade 7 English teacher. From the way she communicates with parents and students, to the variety of activities the students do in her class, Ms. Craig is at the top of the AWESOME list.

Thank you for making the transition to grade 7 so exciting for my son. You are not only teaching the curriculum, but building skills that will help him be successful not only in high school but in life. You make school fun!

Kaitlin Hearty, Dr. S.E. McDowell School, WQSB

Mme. Kaitlin is a very kind, and helpful person. She is very easy to talk to and will answer any question or concern we have. Our mornings are always rushed when our son is in a hurry to get to school, and he even wants to go on weekends. She is very helpful and reassuring with each and every student and their ability to learn and grow, and is always a pleasure to talk to.

As she once told us, I say the same to her, “Keep doing what you are doing!” Great job!

Mylène Campeau, Edgewater Elementary, LBPSB

The best Kindergarten teacher for my daughter! My daughter had a hard time during her last year at daycare, before going to the “big school”. A lot of anxiety, trouble communicating and controlling her emotions, etc. After the first few days in school, I knew Mme Mylène was the perfect match for her. Her patience and calm ways are shining through my daughter and is making such a difference in her life.

It is great to see her blossom and shine the way she is and Mme Mylène has a big part to play in this success. Thank you for being the best teacher for my daughter!

Carole Bamford, Heritage Regional High School, RSB

There are so many amazing teachers at Heritage but the one that stands out the most to me is Ms. Bamford. You know a teacher is great when she/he puts effortless time into student success, and that’s what Ms. Bamford does. I am so thankful to have met her 3 years ago as a math teacher.


Read about the educators who were highlighted last week in the first post for Teacher Appreciation Week here.

If you missed out on the opportunity to send a shout-out to an appreciated staff member of your local school, feel free to add a shout-out in the comments.

Teacher Appreciation – Merci! Thank you!

This year’s Teacher Appreciation Week, as highlighted by le Ministère de l’Éducation et Enseignement Supérieur, has as its very simple theme: Thanks! Merci!

MEES Virtual Card –

Expressing and recognizing gratitude has been shown to make one feel happier. It is all too easy to focus on the negative. Taking stock of all the things for which we have to be grateful will surely make us feel better.  Just think about how happy it would make someone if you shared that gratitude! 🙂

That is exactly what these happy folks did in their shout-outs for educators across Quebec, featured in our 2019 edition of LEARN’s Teacher Appreciation Blog Posts. Thank you for spreading your happiness! (We’ll post again next week, so please keep the shout-outs coming: )

Johanne Lemaire, Forest Hill Junior, LBPSB

Last year at Forest Hill Junior we had a hard time to say goodbye to our phenomenal Kindergarten teacher only to find an equally amazing Grade 1 teacher. I have had the pleasure to volunteer in Mme Lemaire’s class and I am completely floored by how she manages her students. I can barely command one child and there she is leading 18 6-7 year olds and they are ALL listening to her and she has their attention immediately. Little cues to grab attention, little nudges individually to motivate, little looks to let them know they need to stop, encouragement to keep trying, tools to learn the word and sounds, books coming and going to our home, flash cards. It is almost impossible not to flourish in her atmosphere. I do reading with the children, As in all classes, some are more advanced than others. I had children who could not even read a letter at the beginning who are now reading sentences, as if it just clicked at some point for them through all her hard work. We love Mme. Lemaire and we love Forest Hill Junior. What a wonderful way to start our elementary life.

Thank you for being a perfect fit for your job, Mme Lemaire.

Carrie-Ann Novinsky, Pinewood Elementary, SWLSB

Ms. Carrie-Ann is a truly wonderful & special teacher in so many ways. My daughter Alexandra loves her so much! She is a very kind, calm, patient and understanding teacher among other terrific qualities. She always takes time out for her students and the parents. She has fun ideas for the students to do while learning. My daughter enjoys going to school everyday because of the amazing way Ms. Carrie-Ann teaches and by being such a sweet teacher.

Thank you Ms. Carrie-Ann for being such an amazing teacher! We love you!

Darren McCready, McDowell Elementary School, WQSB

My child was feeling anxious about starting Grade 4 so she was able to come in the day before school started to meet her teacher, Mr. McCready. He was very empathetic while reassuring her that if she felt overwhelmed, she could talk to him. After term one, we had parent/teacher interviews and my child attended it with me. The interview began with him telling me how she was doing but before ending, he talked directly to her… saying how he knew she would continue to succeed because she was a hard-worker. My daughter has always struggled in school so to hear his words and praise… it made her feel so encouraged and proud of herself.

Thank you Mr. McCready, for being a supportive and understanding teacher to my daughter! We are so grateful!

Jordan Venne, PACC, LBPSB

After many struggling years of becoming a single parent to two children with special needs, I decided to return to school to acquire my high school diploma. It took me 3 long years to achieve my diploma, but throughout all my studies, Jordan was my go to teacher, for any kind of help. I have a handful of teachers who really helped me throughout my achievements, I do not want to exclude them for their amazing guidance: Jordan, Lethisha, Isaac, John, Teddy and Gene, without all of you, I would have never made it through adult education.
My first time at PACC I met Jordan, he was my math teacher, at this time he was teaching cycle 1 math. Although I was motivated to continue my education, I was scared, shy and doubted my abilities of what I could achieve by continuing my schooling.
This awesome teacher showed the love and dedication of being a teacher by constantly reminding me I can do anything I set my mind to, as well as to believe in myself. Every time I said I could not do something or when I would doubt my ability to achieve something, he always had something inspiring to change my mind set. As an adult, those daily reminders changed my life before I even noticed myself changing. As important as that is for children growing up throughout their education, I believe in the adult sector it is equally as important. Not only did Jordan motivate me, but he took personal time on his breaks to help tutor me, even as I began higher math with other teachers.
Sadly, just when I got comfortable with Jordan helping me on my journey, he broke me the devastating news that he is leaving PACC, he was given an opportunity to work directly at the school board. When Jordan left, I found myself struggling with my math studies, so I decided to reach out to him asking him for help. This amazing teacher went above and beyond by introducing me to websites that could help me, showed me how to solve certain equations through a video he made for me just so I could succeed and understand what I was doing. Most importantly, in my emails asking for help, he always made sure to include one of his motivational speeches just to assure me that I am on the right road and not to worry.

Photo provided by nominator.

This past summer (2018) I finally graduated and yes Jordan was there, up front, watching me graduate. I was so proud of not only myself but of this awesome teacher who kept his promise by going out of his way to come and watch me walk across the stage.



This is beyond touching to have that kind of a bond with a teacher who helped curve my path in my educational road to success. Jordan, Thank you. 

Paola Casale, Leonardo-Da-Vinci Academy, EMSB

Over the course of our children’s early years, they will meet and be guided by many educators and caregivers. Sometimes, we will be fortunate enough to come across that special someone who truly leaves a mark on your child, helping them to grow confidant and learn new things every day. Both of my children have been blessed to have been in Ms. Paola’s kindergarten class at LDVA. Without a doubt, Ms. Paola truly loves what she does and it comes across in her work with our children. My daughter’s first reaction whenever she learns something new at home is to say that she cannot way to tell/show Ms. Paola. The connection between educator and child is such an important one, as they spend so much time together over the course of a school year. I am so very thankful to know that my children have been in such good hands.

Thank you Ms.Paola, for all that you do.

Vilma Scattolin, LEARN Tutoring

Vilma supports our son John with his learning on a weekly basis. We most appreciate the constructive interaction between the 2 and John’s math skills have tremendously improved in the last few months. Vilma also provides John with weekly feedback that helps with improving and developing his math skills.

Thank you Vilma for your commitment and dedication to our children, keep up the great work. John most appreciates you and looks forward to his lessons with you each and every week!

Diana Samaan, Pinewood Elementary, SWLSB

Merci Miss Diana d’accompagner notre fils Liam dans son évolution et de lui donner le goût d’en apprendre toujours plus.

Vanessa DaSilva and All of the staff at Flemming Elementary School, ESSB

Big shout out & thank you to all staff at Flemming Elementary- everyday you go above and beyond to insure both the happiness and success of the students. Each year we thank our son’s teachers and this year like previous years we are very blessed. Thank you Ms DaSilva for all you do each and everyday ~ your dedication to your class is so heartwarming to see .. we are all very lucky to have you ♥️ and want you to know that we appreciate everything you do to include and make everyone feel accepted and cared for.

All staff at Flemming Elementary ~ the support staff .. teaching staff and administrators deserve a ginormous thank you, you all are so kind, dedicated, and welcoming. When you enter the doors at Flemming Elementary it’s not just a feeling of being in a school~ you have a sense of community and pride and we are very honoured to be part of it ♥️

It’s not too late! Add a shout out in the comments below.

Read about the educators who were highlighted in the second post for Teacher Appreciation Week here.