UNK professor Brooke Envick sparks student creativity with board – not bored – games

Brooke Envick's class on board games
Brooke Envick's class on board games(press release)
Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 7:36 AM CST
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KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) - Think about your favorite board game.

From Monopoly to Clue to Candy Land, these venerable games remain popular even as options such as Catan or Azul emerge. Each year, new games appear. And perhaps one day, the latest craze will be invented by students in an entrepreneurship class at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Management professor Brooke Envick uses board game design in her MGT 405: Creativity and Innovation course to give her students an experiential learning opportunity that sparks creativity, teaches teamwork and builds confidence.

Many employers report “creativity” is a prized and desirable asset. Job applicants are asked about their creativity and to describe a situation that demonstrates a creative solution. This can flummox applicants who may lack job experience in which their personal creativity was welcomed. College students may not recognize their own creativity, but, Envick notes, each of us is creative.

“These (creative traits) are almost as unique as a fingerprint,” Envick said. “And how people become confident is by using their skills.”

In thinking about how to teach creativity, she found a company that produces one-off game sets for as little as $35-$75, making it feasible for group projects.

“We can discuss case studies, but that doesn’t give them hands-on skills. This gives them an example of how they are creative. Gives them something to offer when asked ‘how are you creative?’ and affords the opportunity to engage in a multifaceted, fun and meaningful project.”

Students move through the semester identifying game type, themes, target audiences and a game name. They create the games’ rules and strategies. They exercise their functional creativity by designing the games’ layouts, playing pieces, cards and the mechanics of how the product fits in a box. Here they need to look at pricing of their items such as playing tokens, dice, play money, etc. to stay within their budget.

Once this phase is completed, games are ordered. When they arrive, each team is the first to play their games, then games are played by others and evaluated. This, Envick notes, is one of the most fun and exciting parts of the process for the students.

Each student writes an essay describing their experiences and contributions, reflecting on what was personally meaningful, identifying new-to-them knowledge, and describing what they learned and how it might be applicable in the future.

This part is the most rewarding to Envick. Because she has the students’ Creative PsyCap self-evaluations from week one, she can see how each has grown during the semester. Usually, she notes, those scores shoot up in hope, efficacy, resilience and optimism.

“With creativity, a big piece of it is confidence. Somehow, as we get older, we tend to lose self-confidence in offering novel ideas,” she said.