In this season of giving, we have been exposed to not so generous actions on behalf of a good deal (  Many of us shook our heads in amazement and utter dismay, but we have all taken advantage of the sales.  Whether it was on Black Friday or some other day during this season, we have all worked hard at some time or another to give the perfect gift (at a ‘good’ price).  What we as a society may have forgotten is that true giving comes in the form of truly loving and accepting someone for who they are.  Wait! What does this have to do with learning?  Well, a heck of a lot if you think about it.

I was reminded of this when one of my students in my math class was having difficulty doing simple multiplication problems in his head.  Throughout the class, I have encouraged him to use his calculator to do these, but have consistently asked him to learn them without that crutch.  As the term came to an end, I asked him what was going on in his life during the second and third grade when he would have learned his multiplication tables.  It was during this time in his life that he was removed from his home for the first time and put into foster care.  And that is just the tip of the iceberg of all that was really happening.  For this student, multiplication tables have been imbued with emotional trauma that prevents him from learning or memorizing them like many of us did back at that age.  The disruption of feeling loved at that time impeded his cognitive development and today he is still feeling those effects.

David Richo in his book, How to be an Adult in Love, uses a common experience of coming home and showing our work to a parent.  Remember, doing an art or science project in class, or maybe it was a spelling quiz.  You get home and say, ‘Look what I have done!’  In that situation he argues, we were expressing our desire for the five A’s: attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and allowance.  In this common anecdote, we were communicating, “Pay attention to me; accept me; appreciate what I have done; show affection; and allow me to go on doing this without interference or interruption.”  If we did not receive these important affirmations, then they express themselves in our adulthood whether through our personal relationships, or as in the case of my sweet student, in simple multiplication.

So in this season of giving,  I would like to encourage you to give the best thing you can give that no dollar, euro, or peso can buy – the gift of the five A’s.  You may never know how deeply it may impact that person.  But if you find them learning new things with joy and vigor, then you know you have created a nourishing ground of love and acceptance.

Happy Holidays to all.


A game of strategy and survival
(Version 1.1)

Copyright (C) 2013 Harrison Baker.
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3
or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
with the Invariant Section being the Creator’s Note.
A copy of the license is included in the section entitled “GNU
Free Documentation License”.


1. Creator’s Note
2. Before You Start
3. The Basics
4. Combat/Predation
5. Seasons and Reproduction
6. Genetics
7. Ending the Game
8. GNU Free Documentation License


1. Creator’s Note


I’d like to take a moment to explain what Deme is and why I made it. More
importantly, I would like to let you know where I would like us—you and me
and everyone else who might be interested—to take it. Please read the
following paragraphs.

What Deme is:
Deme is a tactical board game of ecology and survival. Players control
animal species on a small island as they compete, feed, breed and evolve.
The primary goal of each species is to survive and reproduce, but other
goals present themselves along the way. Competitors can be eliminated. New
traits can evolve. New species can be born.

What Deme is not:
Deme is not an ecosystem model. Deme plays with broad concepts such as
random mutation, energy flow, interspecific competition and trophic cascades.
It does not, however, represent these things exactly as they happen in a real

Deme is meant to raise questions and encourage experimentation. If you
would like a thorough, scientifically accurate ecosystem modeling system
rather than a game, you might want to try one of these:

The rule system is intended as a toolbox, not a cage. Feel free to modify,
add and subtract rules in the future to meet your needs and make Deme as
realistic or fantastic as you like. I trust my players to find and explore
the differences between real-world dynamics and fictional ones, applying
and sharing their own prior knowledge to create fun, meaningful table

Thank you and enjoy!



2. Before You Start

What you will need:
-Multi-colored tokens, beads or figurines to represent each species (as many as you can get)
-Several six-sided dice (a pack of 10 should be good)
-One 20-sided die
-A hex grid board with hexes large enough to accommodate your poker chips
-Some rocks or other obstructions to serve as terrain
-A set of poker chips (at least one)

The role of the Ecosystem Master:
One person (not a player) will serve as Ecosystem Master (EM). This person is responsible for
overseeing the environment, laying out the narrative, arbitrating player disputes and handling
some random and semi-random events.

Think of the EM like the Dungeon Master in a game of Dungeons & Dragons, or the referee in
a sporting event. The EM has a responsibility to be fair and impartial, and to keep things
interesting. The EM is basically a storyteller, so this role can be a lot of fun.

Rocks, sticks, etc., when placed on the board, represent impassable obstructions. The EM lays
these out as he or she sees fit before the game begins.

Token and Plant Placement:
The EM places each player’s tokens around the board as he or she sees fit. Keep in mind what’s
fair, challenging and makes sense in the ecosystem.

Each player controls a species (set of tokens of a single color). Each species has its own
distinct set of three stats:
-Attack strength (ATT)
-Defense (DEF)
-Speed (SPD)
Each of these stats is determined prior to play for each species by the EM and/or player(s).
To start, you may wish to limit individual SPD values based on board size, and individual ATT and
DEF values to the number of six-sided dice you have on hand.


3. The Basics

Each player’s turn looks like this:
1) Move a token (representing an animal or small population, as the scenario dictates) any
number of hexes up to its SPD value. Each token can move in any direction, but cannot move
through rocks. You can forgo movement if you want.

2) Attack or feed using the token you just moved, if you want to. Place the token on its side so
you remember you moved it.

3) Repeat until all tokens have acted. Play then passes to the next player.

Herbivores move first, then their predators, then those predators’ predators, etc. Within each
trophic level, you may roll for initiative or simply pass from right to left around the table. The
EM (ecosystem master) keeps track of the progression of seasons, the narrative, replacing plant
mass, etc. Play is divided into seasons and years. Each year begins with Spring. When all players have
moved, a new season begins. When four seasons have passed (all players have moved four
times), a new year begins. We’ll get to what this means later.

Each species has a “SPD” value, which represents speed. You can move any number of hexes
(or none at all) up to this value. You cannot move through rocks or share or pass through a
space with another animal. You can share a space with plants (green chips). If you enter a space
occupied by an animal of a different species, you must stop by default.

Feeding is at the core of Deme. When an herbivore ends its turn on a plant (green poker chip),
it carries the chip around with it. If a carnivore kills an adjacent prey animal, the carnivore
gains a green poker chip. Each animal can only gain one green chip per food item, and can only
carry two green poker chips at maximum.
At the end of Summer and Winter, each animal loses one green poker chip and leaves behind a black chip
in its place (see “Feces” below). Animals with no chips to drop die.

Black poker chips serve as “feces” markers. These replace green chips lost by animals at
the end of Summer and Winter. They may also be placed by the EM or by players themselves as
the scenario and species abilities dictate.

Non-aquatic animals that start a turn adjacent to a water hex gain a +1 bonus to their SPD for
that turn. Animals that end Summer and Winter adjacent to water do not lose a green chip.


4. Combat/Predation

After moving a token, the attacker rolls the number of dice shown by the “ATT” value to attack
an animal in an adjacent hex. For example, if the attacking animal has an ATT of 3, roll three
dice. If a die scores 4 or higher, it’s a “hit.” If it scores 3 or lower, it’s a “miss.” The number of
“hits” for the attacker must be higher than the number of “hits” for the defender.
If an attacking animal has used all of its moves before attacking, it is exhausted and suffers a -1
penalty to its “ATT” value.

When attacked, the defending player rolls a number of dice shown by the “DEF” value for the
defending animal. If the number of “hits” (i.e., rolls of 4 or more) matches or exceeds the
number of “hits” the attacker rolled, the attack is repelled.
Optionally, red poker chips may be used as health indicators, each absorbing one attack.
If the attack is successful, remove one red poker chip (if there are any) from the defending
animal. If the defending animal has no red poker chips, the animal dies.

Resolving Combat:
The attacking animal may not attack the same animal twice if the attack was repelled. However,
it may attack other adjacent animals. If the attack is successful, the attacker may continue
attacking until the defending animal is defeated, or it may attack other adjacent animals. If the
attacker is a carnivore or omnivore that feeds on the defender, it gains one green chip from the kill.


5. Seasons and Reproduction

Each season plays the same except for Winter (each player’s last turn of the year). During
Winter, each player’s SPD score is reduced by 1 unless modified by a mutation (see “Genetics”
on next page).

Every Spring, the EM replaces the plant mass lost during the last year. All green poker chips
are restored to the board, with each animal that died at the end of Winter replaced by a green
poker chip.

Plants are placed adjacent to existing plants, and/or are used to replace any black “feces” chips
dropped by players (or the EM) in the path of herbivores over the course of the last year.

Long Game:
For a more in-depth experience, each season lasts four turns for each player instead of one.

Before the start of every Spring, every animal with two green poker chips gets to reproduce.
Each animal produces one offspring (unless modified by mutation). For every offspring, roll for
mutation. See “Genetics” on next page.


6. Genetics
When a new offspring is generated (prior to the Spring redistribution of green chips), it inherits
its parent’s stats (DEF, SPD and ATT) by default. However, each offspring rolls for random
mutations. These mutations become permanent parts of its genome, and may be inherited by all
of its offspring.

Here’s how it works:

Roll the 20-sided die to determine mutation
1 = Fatal (no offspring)
2-13 = No mutation (same as parent)
14 = +1 SPD
15 = +1 DEF
16 = +1 ATT
17 = -1 SPD
18 = -1 DEF
19 = -1 ATT

If the offspring rolls a rare WILDCARD mutation, roll a six-sided die to determine if the effect
is positive (4-6) or negative (1-3). You may also flip a coin, if you have one.

Roll the six-sided die again to determine the trait to be modified*
1 = Cold resistance (modify effect of Winter by +-1 SPD)
2 = Fecundity (+-1 offspring)
3 = Flight (animal passes over obstacles)
4 = Empathy (animal can pass food to adjacent conspecifics at the end of movement)
5 = Diet (animal gains or loses herbivory or carnivory—whichever it didn’t start with)**
6 = Resilience (red poker chip)

*If an animal loses a trait it doesn’t have, the mutation has no effect.
**If animal is losing a food item, flip a coin or use a six-sided die to determine which food type it loses.


7. Ending the Game

Before play begins, the EM should lay out the scenario and a time frame (in real time or game
years) for the game. In addition, each player has the option of announcing his or her own goals
for the game. These may include the elimination of a competing species at the same trophic
level, bearing a certain number of offspring, selecting for a specific trait, etc.
The game ends when the given scenario ends, not (necessarily) when players achieve their own
goals. Remember that this is your game, so everything is negotiable if players and EM agree to
it at the outset.

Once the scenario ends, players can save the stats of their “best” tokens to serve as starter
species for future games. In this way, they can develop their species through “natural” and
artificial selection, much as they might build characters in role-playing games. In this way, a
table (EM + players) can create longer “campaigns” with the same species to see how the
ecosystem changes over time.

Food for thought:

What happens to predators and their prey over time as they evolve to overcome each other’s
weapons and defenses?

What happens to mutualistic relationships (a relationship between two organisms that
benefits both) over time? Why?

Can two organisms at the same trophic level co-exist? How?


8. GNU Free Documentation License

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I’ve been thinking and writing today about research participants as authors of their own experiences — or more accurately as potential co-authors with us of the representations we make of their experiences as learners. The problem in a nutshell is this: we are each the only people who can make meaning out of the flow of impressions, actions, activities, and encounters that make up our lived experiences. But when we attempt to reflect on that lived experience we always do so from an incomplete point of view – we have difficulty stepping out of the lived experience itself in order to reflect on or represent it. Even when we manage, our point of view is limited. We can take the point of view of the “I” who experienced, but in order to create a fuller, more complete account of that experience, we also need to be able to take the point of view of others towards ourselves. We need to see ourselves as both subjects of our experience and objects of our (and others’) reflections.
The problem, of course, for researchers is just the opposite. The researcher has access to their own points of view on our actions, and potentially to multiple points of view on our actions, but unless they also engage us in dialogue about our points of view on those actions, their representations are also incomplete at best and simply caricatures at worst.
In either case, we end up with incomplete representations of human experiences: either the outsider (researcher) view is privileged, or the insider (subjects) view is privileged. As Mikhail Bakhtin pointed out in his work from the 1920’s on the relationship of the author and hero and in his work from the 1970’s on human sciences, both of these perspectives tend toward monologue. They tend to be presented as authoritative statements about our experiences that don’t allow much room for interpretation or negotiation of meaning. The end results it is that I am either represented as a unique subject whose experiences are not generalizable, or represented as an object of research whose experiences are so generalizable as to be personally irrelevant.
Bakhtin’s solution to this problem is to base the “human sciences” on dialogue. Specifically, he calls for dialogue among points of view represented by the voices of active subjects of lived experience and active observers who address and respond to each other. But what would that actually look like in a research setting like the Cyberlab at HMSC? How do we maintain both the generalizable aspects of visitors’ experiences while giving room for visitors’ own personal, unique experiences to shape our research, our findings, and our representations of those findings? That’s a question I’ll be returning to in upcoming weeks and one I hope will spark a dialogue here.

By Jennifer Wyld

Taking a break from beating my Maker drum this month, I thought I would write about the actual paid work I do while working on my degree.  I have a research assistant position on a longitudinal study happening here in the Northwest, in which I was lucky enough to get hired my first year of this PhD process and will see me through to my graduation.  Lucky indeed, in this world of expensive educations! The project I am part of is called Synergies, and the PI’s I work with from OSU are John Falk and Lynn Dierking- the other two-thirds of the FCL staff in our department.  We also have some colleagues from other universities, such as William Penuel,  in Boulder, Colorado.  The goal of this project is to follow the interest development of a cohort of early adolescents from 5th through 8th grade.  While we are particularly interested in STEM, we are noting other interest development as well.  To gather data, we are using both quantitative and qualitative techniques.  Each academic year, we are surveying every member of the grade cohort (who we can get a consent form from!) with a questionnaire covering topics such as interest in STEM fields, career aspirations, family practices, and out-of-school activities.  We are supplementi

The first two years of the study focused on establishing a base-line of understanding about what is currently happening in the community and with this group of youth.   We are using this data to start creating an asset map for the area as well as an “agent-based modeling system” that we intend to use as a predictive tool (if we tweak the community ‘x’ way, ‘y’ happens).  Our next step has been to build a collaborative relationship with both in-school and out-of-school organizations that we will leverage to create interventions to see if we can positively impact interest development around STEM.

Two graduate projects that are hoping to use these interventions are around gardening and Maker experiences.  You can probably guess who is working on the second one! However, the one of the overall goals of funders of the implementation part of  the study is to help create sustainable programs, so Deb Bailey (the other grad research assistant) and I will be working with groups already established in the greater area of our study, but who are not currently active in this particular community.  We are both still just in the planning stages- but we will keep you posted!


I have been watching a lot of superhero movies.  Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, even the Hulk provide me a lot of fuel for thought.  The biographies of many of these fictional characters are replete with narratives of lessons learned and relearned often not through the use of their super powers or acumen, but most often because of their human frailties and feelings.  It is the feelings that allow these superheroes to use their power for good and fight evil.

I often think that emotions play a large role in how we learn and what we learn.  I see this often in one of the classes I teach.  My students take a look at the subject matter and fear drives them to believe they cannot learn it and that they are incapable of being successful.  A different side of the same coin, self-confidence in a subject matter will make anyone feel like a Sheldon Cooper to that content.  (In case you don’t watch Big Bang Theory, that means uber smart.)  Emotions are often overlooked component to learning and learning environments.

New research on emotion and learning can give us some of the biochemical reasons how emotion impacts reason.  Research by Mary Helen Immordino-Yang from USC’d Rossier School of Education shows how emotion can be used by teachers to stimulate creativity.  She has even created curriculum for teachers to access these findings (  She explains that the “neuromechanisms responsible for feeling and managing the body’s physical survival and consciousness have been co-opted to also manage social survival” (mindshift blog,  In other words, the very feelings that help us survive in the physical world also help us navigate social setting such as learning environments.

So this week, I would like to challenge you to consider your feelings as you are learning something.  Do you experience excitement, concern, anxiety, or joy?  How do these feelings impact how you learn?  Can you interrupt your negative feelings, address them, and then move forward all at the same time?  If not, then how would you recommend that we as practitioners can motivate our students when they encounter strange experiences or unknown content area?  What personal experiences can you share about moving through feelings, whether positive or negative, to finally get at a learning experience?  Let us discuss…

In the first day of class, my philosophy professor asked us to think about and report if we were in agreement, or not, with the notion of a largely increasing environmental crisis. There was a diverse array of responses, ranging from an absolute yes to a negation of it in the support of a view that nature will fix itself and technology will provide solutions for everything. My first reaction was one of disappointment, how can people still deny the huge humanly produced chaos we live in right now? But as we move further in the term I am diving in deep philosophical thoughts about how history, economical modes, culture and religion contribute to this interrelated chains between various worldviews and perceptions about the relationship between humans and non-human nature.

As radical ecology poses, getting to the root of the problem is not about negating one view or another, dwelling on what is true or false, or on what is scientifically valid or not, but about learning from diversity and filling in the blanks toward an environmental ethic that is respectful and concerned with both the human and non-human life, with social and environmental justice. The multicultural/partnership worldview is an emergent view in a world long dominated by egocentric and homocentric ethics, which are focused on a mechanistic view of nature that creates an “otherness” in regard to who we are and how we fit within the web of life on earth.

We discuss mainstream environmentalism, the group of ten, the greens, deep ecology, spiritual ecology and social/socialist ecology, ecofemism, etc., all within the historical and current social, cultural, political and economic contexts. We talked about influential people from John Muir and Aldo Leopold to contemporary philosophers and ecofeminists as Carolyn Marchant and Kathleen Dean Moore (former OSU Philosophy professor). We debate the concept of wilderness, the dichotomy between man and nature, the notions of spectacular nature and spectacular violence as opposed to the slow environmental violence going invisible to most. We discuss activism in the first and third world. We talk about fear, hopelessness but also about empowerment and success. This all to me touch on education in many different dimensions of people’s life. Then the Talmud saying speaks to me… “You are not required to finish the job, but you are not at liberty to quit”.

J. Baird Callicott wrote in his book “Earth’s insight”: “We are in fact the dominant species on the planet; we do in fact hold the fate of the earth in our hands; and we are indeed moral beings in a largely amoral world. Without taking the Bible literally, one may feel, further, that somehow there is more to haven and earth than science can know and tell and that humanity is somehow a uniquely privileged but uniquely responsible creature among creatures

This passage comes to mind when I remember my days doing research at an isolated little island in the Atlantic Ocean, standing upon terrain where Darwin once stood, as we drove through the Rocky Mountains this summer, as I took students through the many sunsets and sunrises at the Amazon forest, as I flew through the Sierra Nevada yesterday, every time I dive, and multiple other times when spectacular nature is presented to me. But I also think of it when I see my daughter play with bugs in the backyard, collect rocks on a neighborhood walk, and when I go to conferences and get inspired by people “who do not have the liberty to quit”.