For those of you who haven’t yet been introduced, Pokémon is a card game that is built around collecting a multitude of species of “pocket monster” and training them to battle other monsters. Players collect and trade monster cards as well as entering into battles which allow them to gain special skills and moves as well as level up and evolve into a more advanced monster form. Pokémon is this year’s school obsession. The highlight of the week for many of the lower level students is the Friday afternoon Pokémon Club. There are over 700 different species of Pokémon monster with some being harder to collect than others. And our kids are quickly building up their collections and waging intense and complex battles every Friday afternoon.
So what is the fascination with these “pocket monsters?” Mattie tells me that she loves them because “they attack and are beautiful! My favorite Pokémon is the one I am making the costume for Halloween! My favorite is
Meloetta. She is beautiful AND she can disappear whenever she wants! And it is [a special collection Card].” Helene agrees adding, “They have shiny cards. They all do battle but the shiny ones do it really good and I love them so much…I want more shiny cards cause they’re my favorite!” The girls giggle together as they huddle over their decks, sharing and arranging them.
A Pokémon deck is sort of like a modern day baseball card collection. However, Christina, the teacher who hosts and moderates the club, points out “Besides collecting and deck-building, some of the young enthusiasts have begun to build reading skills by playing battles with their new decks. Younger club members help by sorting cards into categories.” Christina’s approach to the club has supported a lean toward skill building and camaraderie as she focuses the club time on game play and inclusion instead of trading and private competitive ownership. Everyone is welcome and thanks to a generous donation of hundreds of cards from Amazing Discoveries (a game store that specializes in non-electronic games), anyone who wants to play can pick out favorite cards and build a personalized school deck.
It is Christina’s vision that the Pokémon Club may eventually participate in the Play! Pokémon program. This program allows kids to share their love and interests in fun, spirited non-competitive league play. In these leagues and tournaments “an emphasis is placed on fun, fairness, honesty, respect, sportsmanship, and learning. In addition to promoting logical and strategic thinking, good sportsmanship, and core math and reading skills…” (Pokémon Parents Guide, www.pokemon.com)
On any given day of the week you will see club members comparing cards, sharing with others and working together to arrange and organize the little monsters by attributes. They have friendly debates and discussions about the pros and cons of different skills and characteristics. Mary Jane notes that the children’s deep involvement in Pokémon has supported the learning of social skills, problem solving and the ability to compromise as the kids slowly create a micro-community of experts and learners. Emma, one of our Kino teachers, chimes in with the observation that “the TV show itself, teaches about relationships as well as setting and working towards common goals.”
Meanwhile the kids just see it as “really having fun.”