I’ve played the Thingamabob Game with my classes two years in a row now, and each time the students are engaged, frustrated, creative, and reflective. Each time I’ve played students come up with new and creative solutions. In reflecting on their experience, students say they lost the game because they cared more about money and the candy reward than about protecting the earth. I ask how we can make real CEOs care about protecting the earth, and students come up with wonderful solutions such as boycotting, charging companies a fine who produce too much CO2, and my personal favorite, making rich companies give away most of their money to pay for installing solar panels for everyone. (There was also one enthusiastic student who proposed we reward companies who did not produce much CO2 by giving candy to their CEOs, just as the rich “CEOs” in our class had gotten candy, which I thought was a charming idea).
There was a particularly memorable moment last year in which six out of the seven teams were cooperating by producing very few Thingamabobs each round, and one company was defecting and maximizing Thingamob production in each round. The other students were getting frustrated, and one girl asked if we could change the rules so that if their class did end up going over the CO2 trigger number, the companies with the least CO2 production ended up with the prize. I made a quick decision and told them yes, if they democratically voted to change the rule, it would change. The girl put her plan to a vote, and it passed by a wide margin. In the end, I think this was an empowering lesson for everyone involved about strength in numbers, recognizing true motives, thinking outside the confines of the system, and organizing.