The Importance of Collaborative Learning

Young boy watches mother select a wooden game piece from SimplyFun's Asymbol, a 3D building game for ages 8 and up

Collaborative Learning is a hot topic these days among both educators and parents as we see the increasing need to work together as families and communities to solve the challenges we face in today’s world. The foundations of collaboration include communication (both speaking and listening), building relationships that create a sense of connection, and character, as we focus on broader goals that meet needs beyond just our own. We don’t need to go back very far in history to find examples of how the lack of collaboration had disastrous results. In researching themes for our newest game, Fossil Sweep, we found a prime example where ego ruled with unfortunate and long-lasting consequences.

The Bone Wars

Back in the late 19th century, two scientists, who began as friends, turned into enemies in their quest to be at the pinnacle of their area of research. Fame and notoriety took precedence over collaboration and respect. It even superseded the accuracy and reliability of their findings, resulting in many years of lost time as those that came after them had to untangle the truths and mistruths of what had been reported to both the scientific community and the general public. Even more sadly, their carelessness in their quest to find one thing resulted in the loss of many other potentially groundbreaking discoveries. What was the driver behind all of this? It was the search for and discovery of dinosaur fossils.

Black and white image of paleontologists O.C. Marsh (left) and E.D. Cope (right).

What happened between these two men is now referred to as The Bone Wars. Many books and even a few movies have chronicled how this drive for scientific fame took on a very dark side. If you have watched shows on archeology, you see workers using small tools and brushes as they carefully map and excavate a site. It is a painstakingly slow process, but necessary to preserve the potential findings. In contrast, the scientists in the Bone Wars were searching for only ‘big bones’ and used dynamite to blast into suspected bone beds destroying hundreds of smaller fossils that we now know from keystone species research likely had significant relevance in the ecosystem of that time. We will never know what was lost as a result of these scientist’s actions, or what finds may have moved research forward more quickly had they acted in a collaborative and cooperative manner to preserve this precious history.

Collaboration is Essential  

Two children sitting on carpet use tweezers to carefully pick egg-shaped game pieces in SimplyFun's Dreaming Dragon, a fine motor skill game for ages 6 and up.

Learning to collaborate is a necessary skill in today’s world if we want to make a difference for tomorrow. As the old saying goes, two heads are better than one—particularly when we are trying to evaluate problems and find solutions that involve multiple stakeholders. That is why helping kids learn how to collaborate is essential, and gameplay is one of the best ways to accomplish that. Whether playing a collaborative-based game or a game of winners and losers, kids learn that the race for success does not always produce a long-term winning result; particularly if others are hurt in the process. Thoughtful steps, good planning, listening, and helping others less adept be more successful may produce a more positive outcome with a lasting impact. The Bone Wars should be a reminder to all of us of what can happen when we lose sight of the fact that we are ultimately one community, and what we do to and for that community matters.

For more information on The Bone Wars read O.C. Marsh and E.D. Cope: A Rivalry on PBS.

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