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These kids have got game.
Academically and intellectually gifted fourth- and fifth-graders in the Rowan-Salisbury School System are showing their skills this week in a competition built around board games.
But don’t think checkers or Monopoly. “Got Game” is about more than fun.
“It’s challenging the kids to think outside the box,” said Kelly Feimster, director of media services and the AIG program for the school system.
Feimster said the event is based on the school system’s emphasis on problem-based learning with gifted students.
In its second year, the tournament has the students form teams, then choose books from their school libraries on which they base board games. The students designed and built the games, then presented them over four days this week at Horizons Unlimited.
Today is the final day. On Wednesday, 105 AIG students showed off the results of their hard work.
The students compete to win a variety of challenges. Awards are given for design and presentation of the students’ own projects and how they perform on learning games provided by Glenda Dyson, owner of Just the Thing in downtown Salisbury.
Feimster said the district partnered with Dyson for the first competition last year because her games are “very challenging.” She said different games to meet the needs of different learners, including games based on numbers, words and thinking skills.
“We want it to be challenging,” Feimster said. “We want them to use their higher-order thinking skills, and we also want them to have fun with students from other schools.”
Sapphire Turner, a fourth-grader, helped her team design and build the game “Math Land” based on the book “A Place for Zero.”
“We learned that we need to work better together, and we learned multiplication at the same time, because when we play the game together, we learn it together,” she said.
And at Horizons Unlimited on Wednesday, she “made four friends, because we’re all crazy and funny,” she said.
Students from different schools were teamed up to play the games Dyson provided. She said the competition was born after Feimster contacted her last year to get games that would challenge students and be fun.
Dyson runs the event with help from her employees, and her store provides prizes and gift cards for winners.
She also praised students who are members of the Leadership Team at Carson High School. They teach the younger students how to play the games, help oversee the competition and act as judges.
“We couldn’t do it without the Carson kids at all,” she said. “They’re awesome.”
Anthony Cataldo, a Carson High senior and member of the Leadership Team, said it’s a two-way street. The fourth- and fifth-graders get to learn from students who are close to their age and can be “fun and goofy,” he said, while the Carson students get community service credit and develop better communication skills.
“Personally, I love helping kids, especially elementary,” he said. “I think they’re adorable.”
When it came time to hand out prizes and awards, Dalton Barringer, a fourth grader at Rockwell Elementary, won the four games students had played that day from Dyson’s store because he got the highest score on them.
Neely Vinson and Emma Auguston, fourth-graders at Faith Elementary, won an award for best presentation about their game.
And taking the award for game design were Morgan Elementary fifth-graders Mattox Henderson, Colby Lovingood and Preston Whicker, and fourth-grader Hayden Johnson. They won for their game based on the North Carolina state map.
“It was going to be the world, but we couldn’t get the right dimensions, so we switched to the state,” Colby said.
The foursome had some other problems, too, including leaving their board outside in the rain after spray-painting it — “It looked like a cow,” Mattox said — and having the pieces of the board become stuck together after applying more paint.
With perseverance and duct tape, they overcame those obstacles, and came out winners.
And they got more than a plaque out of it.
“Basically teamwork,” Colby said of what they gained, “and we learned more about our state while we were doing it.”

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