Bratislava Pol… and Marek Kakaščík

"We still feel like we are somewhere at the beginning of our efforts but we are willing to keep the dialogue with teachers open and hope to find new ways and new solutions for our education together."

The team of Bratislava Policy Institute has its background in academia and therefore education is very close to us. After leaving the teaching behind, we weren't willing to completely give it up and we started to focus on modernization, new teaching, and innovative methods. However, we have to admit that in the beginning, we had been burnt on a couple of projects focusing on teaching. Our main focus was put on traditional teaching methods, which we had used at university – lecturing the students on a specific topic. Soon enough we found out that there were so many NGOs offering lectures on a said topic that schools were losing interest. So we took the step back and consulted our options with the „source“ – the teachers. They ensured us that there is a need for activities like ours but they need to be implemented differently, so everyone, students, teachers, or lecturers can benefit from it.

The requests from the teachers were simple. Firstly, the areas that should be considered should be topics for which they don't have enough time during the school year, and also lack resources. Secondly, it needs to be interesting for students so they will receive it positively. Thirdly, it should not replace the lectures but complete them. Fourthly, it should encourage students to think more critically about the issues and their solutions which are being offered to them through newsfeeds in social media.

That's when the idea of creating a board game came into the discussion. As political scientists with different backgrounds and as supporters of using various new techniques for teaching, we decided that this could be an efficient way of how to introduce the current issues to the students. Stemming from the research of young people's knowledge of foreign policy and NATO, we knew that this topic would be the correct one to start with as it is very problematic with regards to the current trend of fake news.

Our goal was therefore to design board game which will improve students' knowledge in the area of foreign and security policy, NATO, current and historical conflicts, and violation and restriction of human rights. We tried several project calls and after a couple of months, we met with support from Bridge 47 and Hanns Seidel Foundation.

As we conducted preliminary research we found out that we would not be able to provide 100 printed boxes for the games, so we started to look for alternative packaging. The solution turned out to be quite simple and eco-friendly. We decided to go with a fabric alternative in the form of a small bag with a unique design. Our graphic designer took inspiration from uniforms and stencil writing on army and navy uniforms. As for the colors, she kept basic black and white accompanying the navy blue which is also used for the cover. The logos and the name of the game will be sewed to the cover in the form of patches.

Game pouch waiting for the patch with logo

Game pouch waiting for the patch with logo

The game will consist of a fabric cover, a fabric pouch with two wooden dices and 6 different colored figures, a board, an instruction manual containing NATO phonetic alphabet, and 400 play cards in two different colors. The game is designed mainly for students of age 14 and higher as recommended by the teachers. The innovation for education in this area lies in the positive features of the board game. It improves students' attitudes and motivation towards global issues, improves social and communication skills and emotional sensitivity, and it forces students to decide and take responsibility for their decisions.

At the current stage, we have designed the cover, finalized the topics and design of questions and we are working on designing the board itself. In the next phase, we will be testing the game ourselves and later on, we will test it with students before taking the game into print.

We have already met with plenty of support from teachers and also from other NGOs and experts who are interested in creating various board games with different topics. Others also suggested taking the game online. Furthermore, we are looking into the possibility to organize small game expo where we could test the game on a larger audience to gain feedback.

Our hope is that the activities of this kind will have three main outcomes. Firstly, we hope to be able to catch the interest of students in more „boring“ topics. Secondly, we will be able to help teachers with topics that they consider to be more difficult to teach and thirdly, we will motivate more NGOs, individuals, and foundations to choose a more difficult, innovative and efficient way of how to present these topics to students. We still feel like we are somewhere at the beginning of our efforts but we are willing to keep the dialogue with teachers open and hope to find new ways and new solutions for our education together.

About the Author

Bratislava Policy Institute

Bratislava Policy Institute (BPI) is an independent research institute established by group of sociologists and political scientists. BPI’s objective is to provide public policy-orientated expertise in the areas of youth policy, extremism, ethnicity, minority, and migration studies.

Marek Kakaščík

Position: Innovation and Communications Trainee
Marek assists Bridge 47 with the national work in Slovakia and with communications of our sub-granting mechanism.