Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
Opened Fall 2003
Taking a leadership role in economic education in the New England region, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston worked with us to develop a learning experience intended to appeal to middle school audiences. For this potentially difficult-to-engage age group, we proposed that the exhibition component of the experience be relatively small, with the main attraction being a compelling, competitive, economic decision-making game played by the entire visiting group.
The New England Economic Adventure has been extremely popular with its target age group, and has proved to be an attraction for college student audiences as well.
Game design for the New England Economic Adventure combines live facilitation with large format media and game devices, such a giant lever to spin a ‘wheel of fortune.’ Each player’s seat is outfitted with a small PDA-like interactive pad that enables them to make decisions and investments.
At key moments in the game, a selected participant pulls a lever to set a projected ‘wheel of fortune’ in motion. These Risk Rounds reveal that unanticipated events leading to financial and personal losses have been a part of business in every period of history. For example, in 1813, pirates and storms at sea posed constant risks for Boston’s shipping entrepreneurs who stood to lose not only a ship and cargo, but often a family member overseeing the voyage.
The game plays out in three distinct eras in which New Englanders reinvented their economy. For each, decision-making scenarios are dramatized by actors in period attire and settings. Each segment ends with the actors turning to the audience to ask what decisions they intend to make. Players’ investments, entered into each person’s own PDA, are updated as the game unfolds, and at the end, a game winner identified.
Leading toward the Adventure theater, three artifact-rich vignettes display personal possessions representative of a median income family in each of the three time periods featured in the game.
As with all of our projects where we are breaking new ground, evaluation is a critical part of the process. To see how the game storyline resonated with the middle-school target age range, we developed a non-media version with live actors playing the roles of historically prominent New England entrepreneurs.
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