Water connects us all, in so many ways, and is vital for all life on our planet. To help people understand the many dynamic demands on critical water resources, Maria Elena Orduña Alegría, a Research Associate and PhD candidate at the Dresden University of Technology, developed a serious board game titled “MAHIZ”, which interconnects sociology, hydrology, and agriculture. Malena presented MAHIZ at the 2019 AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco, CA. At the conference, MAHIZ and Malena’s presentation about the game won an Outstanding Student Paper Award (OSPA) in the Education Section.
Games are a form of science communication and education that can make geoscience knowledge accessible and achievable for a wide variety of audiences, including researchers, teachers, students, and many others. Games like MAHIZ help scientific researchers overcome obstacles in sharing knowledge with larger audiences. MAHIZ provides and prioritizes a safe space in which players can build knowledge and scientific researchers can share knowledge about complicated topics. Because people with all levels of knowledge are involved in the game play, researchers like Malena are able to connect with and teach people about multiple geoscience fields. Also, all game players, no matter what their preexisting knowledge level is prior to playing the game, share the real-world role of a human being who impacts our planet’s water resources.
The game MAHIZ has the same name as the ancient word “mahiz” from the Taino language. In MAHIZ, every player is a farmer growing corn. The game MAHIZ has been played internationally on two continents and in several countries, including Germany, Mexico, the Czech Republic, France, Austria, and the United States.
Over many years, as Malena has learned more about the different and complex dynamics involved with water resources, the goal of sharing that knowledge with everyone has also increased. The 2019 AGU Fall Meeting provided Malena with an opportunity not only to share MAHIZ with a very large audience of scientific researchers, educators, and communicators, but also to receive valuable feedback from colleagues and other attendees. Participants were even able to play MAHIZ at the Geoscience Game Night event at the 2019 Fall Meeting.
For anyone else who wants to share their science more widely, Malena suggests stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things, while cultivating the creativity and imagination that live in each of us. Games like MAHIZ allow people the opportunity to connect with scientific knowledge in a safe, accessible, and emotional way. Malena remarked that “science is for everybody”, and researchers have a duty to help make it available to wide audiences. One exciting way to connect people of all backgrounds with complex science is to create games like MAHIZ as amazing science and education tools.
To receive news about MAHIZ and to contact Malena, MAHIZ’s developer, please follow Malena on twitter (@_malena_). Malena’s PhD research project was funded through the Excellence Initiative by the German Federal and State Governments.