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A new game people play to survive, thrive

A group of teachers from Philippine Science High School System, some coming from as far as Mindanao, braved Typhoon “Egay” (international name: Linfa) on July 7 for a day of learning at the University of the Philippines’ Marine Science Institute.

But it wasn’t a conventional one. Instead of blackboards, they were given play mats. Instead of chalks, they were armed with different kinds of play cards. Instead of teaching, they played a game—as community leaders sharing natural resources, competing to have the most developed community.

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That afternoon, they played for the first time the tabletop game, “Resilience: Survive and Thrive,” developed by a team of researchers, with lead technical consultants Laura David and Elena Pernia. The project is funded by the Commission on Higher Education and copyrighted by the University of the Philippines.

The multidisciplinary game consists of a deck of cards on environment (forests, mangroves, coral reefs), development (sustainable, commercial and conservation investments) and crisis (flash food, storm surge, strong waves, typhoon and supertyphoon) that will aid players in building an environment that is more adaptive to stress, despite various changes.

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After play tests in high schools, initial prints of the game were given free to local government units from as far as Davao del Sur province, and now to the 14 campuses of the high school system, the first to incorporate the game into its curriculum.

Reactive stage

The development of the project came in the aftermath of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) when scientists realized the importance of science communication.

“Like most everything about disaster adaptation, we’re still at the stage of being reactive,” David said.

People act on a disaster, or an impending one, when it’s already in our midst, she said, especially when covered by mass media. But after a long time, we forget about disasters because interest dwindles.

David also acknowledged the gaps in science communication among scientists, the public and the media.

“Before, when you do research, all you’re asked for at the end of the line is one of two things: international publication and graduate studies. It is not in one’s imagination to go down to the barangay (village) level, and even if community engagement happens, there is still a lack of everyday (scientific) information in the Philippines. But we’re getting there,” she said.

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“Our No. 1 targets are elementary and high school teachers, because they are the ones who will continue the discourse. If they can introduce this to their curriculum, even if the news dies down, the interest will be sustained,” David said.

Resilience game

At the same time, David said her team also needed the support of politicians and stakeholders to be able to continue the discourse on disaster prevention.

For the resilience game, the goal isn’t an individual win, but a win for all communities involved. The goal of each player is to gain more points as possible for one’s community, for every point gained contributes to the stability of the entire environment.

The logic of the game, according to David, challenges the status quo in the communities.

“In reality, when you have, say, one barangay or municipality, there is competition. The Filipino’s bayanihan is as small as within a barangay or a family, we don’t really engage the neighboring community,” David said.

“In the current state of the environment, that wouldn’t work anymore. You really have to harness all that is good, that is why the short-term goal of the game is to instill that although development is a competition, it has to take into consideration the communities around you. There is power among you to police each other,” she added.

In the long run, David and her team wish to see students, whether they choose to pursue the sciences, engineering, economics or other fields, realizing that development is still possible, as long as they take into consideration all the other ecosystem services and their capacity to endure the impacts of every development.

“The moment the balance is thrown the other way, no matter how good your development is, it can be destroyed by the next disaster,” she said.

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TAGS: Education, new game, Philippine Science High School, Resilience: Survive and Thrive, UP, UP Marine Science Institute
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