Magothy River Association Works With SPHS Students To Create Board Game

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The Magothy River Association teamed up with Severna Park High School students to create a water-resistant, educational Magothy River Water Trail trivia game.

“Originally, the game was part of a Chesapeake Bay Trust grant for the Water Trail project, and with these grants you have to have an educational component,” said Magothy River Association (MRA) President Paul Spadaro. “So, we proposed the game as that education component. We realized the game was too clunky the way we had it originally designed. So, we revisited it this year and we worked with the high school kids to revamp it and make it playable.”

In the fall, Heather Barnstead, who teaches Interactive Media Production (IMP) at Severna Park, met Spadaro through the Severna Park Historical Society. When he told her about his grant, she encouraged him to let her students work on the game, rather than paying someone.

“We had everybody in Interactive Media Production I and II play the game the way that it was originally set up and then also give them feedback about different things that they liked or disliked about it,” said Barnstead.

The first step was taking the existing game, which was hand-drawn, and vectorizing the image. Once the image was on the computer, it could be changed at any time.

Originally, the game involved flipping a coin, and the questions were on the back on the board. The students proposed multiple choice game cards and a spinner.

Unfortunately, student involvement in the project was cut short. The IMP classes began work in January, and in April, schools were closed due to the pandemic. Spadaro and the MRA volunteers took the students’ feedback and continued to make the game.

Though students may not have seen the project through, Barnstead is glad they had some real-world experience.

“I think that sometimes things like learning can be disconnected,” said Barnstead. “Like, why am I doing this? And so, I, as much as I can, try to bring in practical experience and say, ‘OK, we have a client. You use the different skills and make it applicable to them.’”

The game was officially released in early June. The final design includes 50 game cards, an MRA Water Trail guide, a biodegradable bag, and a waterproof board and spinner. The game starts at Beachwood Park in Pasadena and ends at Spriggs Farm Park in Arnold. Players tour the entire Magothy River as they move along the board.

“It's kind of like ‘Chutes and Ladders,’” explained Spadaro. “There were three old-fashioned ferry routes across the Magothy, and we incorporated those routes as the ‘chutes’ going from one side of the river to the other.”

Spadaro hopes that while families are playing the game, they learn about the ecology and history of the Magothy River and Chesapeake Bay.

The MRA plans to release a second deck of game cards with 50 new questions this summer. In the meantime, families can purchase the game for a $40 donation by calling Cindy Bateman at 540-222-4969. Only 50 games were made and 10 were sold in the first two weeks.

“I feel it could be a wonderful tool to teach people the ecology of the river and at the same time a family game, whether you play in your living room or on a boat,” said Spadaro.

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