Play to Learn in Reyhanli

Studio Description

Rosa Weinberg

The studio explores the design and development of educational games for displaced Syrian teenagers living in Reyhanli in southern Turkey in collaboration with the Karam Foundation.

Final Post

Irene McLaughlin-Alves and Sam Scher
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Finished Model

Ian von Schroeter


Eli Levitt and Zachary Ploude

Over 1 million children have fled Syria in the past 5 years. While escaping, travelling, and searching for a new home, they are falling behind in schooling. Besides academics, they also have to learn the language and customs of a different country. Our game is designed to help these children sharpen their skill in the four basic operations, become familiar with PEMDAS, and learn how to count from 1-99 in Turkish.

The game is designed to be played by 2 players. Each player has a set of 60 pieces containing an operation and a number and a card with a set of target numbers. Each target number corresponds to one of the rows on the board. The players’ target numbers are different, and each player keeps their target numbers a secret. Each row is a separate equation, and the goal for each row is for the answer to the equation to be closer to your target number than your opponent’s once the row is completely filled. Players take turns placing pieces on the board, altering the answer of an equation with each turn. This means that players will have to calculate the effect of each action taking PEMDAS into account.

We wanted to create a game that would be fun to play while also incorporating math into the strategy. Every time a piece is played, each player has to solve the row the piece is in to know what effect it had with PEMDAS. The more pieces have been played in the row, the longer the equation becomes. Throughout the course of a game, players will have to perform many calculations, increasing their familiarity with operations and PEMDAS through practice. Familiarity with the 4 basic operations will help the children with exponents, geometry, graphing, polynomials, and even more advanced concepts.

In our first iteration of the game, we thought of a Connect-4 type board, with most of the basic mechanics of the game. Before we made a complete prototype however, we changed the layout of the board, so that it was flat in front of both players. Our board was a perfect square, with a 6x6 grid of indents. There was no system for determining target numbers, and nowhere for the numbers to be represented. Each player’s target numbers were hidden from the other player. After playtesting this board, we found that its shape made its orientation unclear. There was also a “parentheses” round once the board was filled in which the players would take turns placing pairs of parentheses in the equations. Each player would have only two pairs of parentheses to place.

In our second iteration, we made the board stand up at an angle. This allowed players to see the board from a longer distance so that they did not need to sit right next to each other. Because it was semi-vertical, we made a little lip so that the pieces wouldn’t fall out. This also made the rows visibly different than the columns. In addition, we tested making each player’s target numbers known to the other player, and the parentheses round was removed because it was too complicated. Target numbers were assigned by target number cards, and each player now had a cardholder that would hold both their target number card and their pieces. The base of the cardholder had six indents which were made to hold five pieces each. However, they were not deep enough to contain all five of their pieces.

In our final iteration, the board sits up in front of both players, like before. However, the rows and target numbers are now color coded so that each row’s target number can be easily identified. We also decided to not make target numbers known to the other player because it removed much of the strategy from the game. The cardholder was revised, replacing the six indents with a trough designed to hold two layers of pieces in a 5x3 rectangle. When not playing, the cardholder can be rearranged into a compact shape and store a player’s pieces. Finally, we decided that because the parentheses round added so much strategy and calculation, it would be mentioned in the rules as an optional challenge.


Sam Scher and Irene McLaughlin-Alves

The theme for this studio was the Syria crisis. Specifically, we were connected with the Karam Foundation and they wanted educational games for the kid refugees to use in Reyhanli, a town on the southern border of Turkey. We decided to create a game made to help kids learn Turkish. This is important because Turkey does have programs for the refugees to be able to go to college, but they must be able to speak Turkish to do so. We made a more physical game that was modeled after the idea of a carnival game. We took the idea of throwing something and knocking over an object that would then provide information for the person playing. We decided that two people (or teams) would stand on either side of the game. Each card would have a Turkish word on one side, and the Arabic meaning on the other. On the bottom of each card would be an image to confirm the vocab word when hit. One player would speak a chosen word by one player on one language's side, and their partner (or team) on the other side would throw a small bean bag at the word they think matches in the opposite language. Once knocked over, a slide would go down to reveal the confirmation image. Our cards have dry erase surfaces so they can always be new words and personalized by the kids and teachers. We planned to also make a pre-made set of cards to go with the game so the game could be played without having to write out the cards by the players. These would be able to switch in and out of the card frames build onto each row. We spray painted the frames outside so the structure was more colorful and created a point system where a certain number of points are assigned to each frame hit. This was for the competition aspect of the game. We ran into problems with measurements along the way but worked them out as they came. Our product did not end up completely finished. We didn't get a chance to build in the sliders correctly in each frame and we never tested out actually throwing something at the cards.


Scott Irving

Final Presentation

Teresa Huckaby

Since the beginning of the Syrian Crisis, in 2011, around 1.9 million syrians have fled to Turkey. For the children among that 1.9 million, It is important they learn turkish in order to adapt to life there. Not only will helping Turkish help them adapt to life, but it will also provide them the opportunity to attend schools in Turkey.

Catchoo is a fun and interactive game that teaches Turkish.  There is a learning and competitive component to the game. This helps kids learn how to speak the language while having fun. The game has two level of cards with the intention that two people on different levels of Turkish can play together. Although our main intention was to teach Turkish, the design of the game allows for there to be expansion on the languages that the game can teach. Along, with focusing on how to play the game, we also focused on what the game was played with. The design of the physical model is compact and portable, making it easy to play the game anywhere you go.

In our first iteration, we modeled the design after the game catchphrase, using a three dimensional oval that had one slot for cards and a digital timer that would beep when you started to run out of time. We also thought of using springs to continuously push the cards upward so that they were still accessible as more cards were pulled out of the deck. This design was very basic and didn’t meet all the purposes of our project.

In our second iteration, we redesigned the entire shape of the game.  We decided to make the game a three dimensional triangle, thinking that this would be a more interesting and unique design. Instead of having one slot for cards, we created two slots so that two people could play. Along with changing the model of the game, we also changed the intention of the game. We decided that there would be two levels of cards so that people at different levels could play with one another.

In our third and final iteration, we redesigned the shape again after receiving feedback that the shape triangle did not work with the different elements of the game. Since there are two decks of cards, we decided to make a rectangle where each end would be the entire length of the two decks of cards and had storage space inside to hold the different levels of cards. We also changed the way the cards come out of the box, stacking them vertically (so that the side of the card was going up and down) instead of horizontally so that gravity would not be working against the person trying to remove the cards and to conserve space in the box. We also decided to fasten the lid to the box using magnets instead of a hinge because we thought this looked sleeker aesthetically.  

Final Presentation

Frederick Wilson

Process Post

Riana Schaff

Since the Syrian Civil War broke out in 2011, hundreds of thousands of Syrian children have been displaced causing a huge gap in their education. “Around the World”, is a board game that will help teachers determine a student's understanding of math so they can place them in a grade level based on their ability. It also contains monuments from around the world, so they can learn a little about different wonders of the world. The monuments are their to make the game less stressful and more enjoyable.This game is an interactive tool that teachers will be able to use instead of test, which is often terrifying. How it will work is a player would roll the dice and move their piece accordingly. They would then choose a card from one of the four piles based on the space they land on. Once they have the card they will answer the question and if correct they will receive a point card with a number between one and six on it, this way a student won’t feel bad if they are not as strong in math. At each monument there is a challenge space where each player has to stop. Here they will chose another player and whoever can answer the challenge card quicker gets the point card. This demonstrates how fast a student can comprehend and contemplate. At the end of the game they will count up how many points they earned and the one who has the most wins. I created three different iterations of the project, adding and subtracting different elements along the way. I started with a more basic board shape, but ended with a path that starts and ends in the same place, going along with the theme “Around the World”. I also decided to put both English and Arabic on the board, however some of the writing is pretty small. I also did not figure out how the path is to go over the pyramid of Chichen Itza. However I did decide that their would only be three steps over the pyramid, and had an idea about how it would look, I just ran out of time.


Final Post

Jackson Elmore and Gabriel Fields
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In refugee camps, many kids do not go to school, and end up not having anything entertaining to do. To keep them interested, and also provide physical exercise, we designed and built a play to power machine that generates electricity as the kids play on it. Not only would this reduce their boredom, but it would also empower them: allowing their play to help the people around them. 

We ran into a few problems in the beginning, mostly revolving around originality. We found out that there was already many play to power machines that existed. Some of them were ideas that we had brainstormed before. We discovered swing sets that generated electricity, see saw's, and others like that.  We decided that it would be best if we made our own playground toy, and found a way to have it generate power. 

There is a generator inside one of the boxes, that spins as the kids are balancing from left to right. There is also a ratchet that is connected to the rod, that causes the generator to spin.