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Of Co-ops and Collectives: Ode to the Universe of We Not Me

Outside the confines of competitive activities, the competitive mindset, and the competitively structured institutions so endemic to modern mainstream culture, there exists a parallel universe of cooperation. This is a joyful place dedicated to joint purpose. Here, conviviality and compassion set the tone. Break through the looking glass of competition—and all the negative emotions and ideas that often accompany it—and enter the Cooperative Zone. You’ll feel at home. Here is Community.
What is the nearest portal to this alternative realm? Look to food co-ops, childcare co-ops, certain online communities, community radio, churches, and volunteer groups, among other settings where resources and ideas are shared. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you feel you’re helping and being helped by other people while contributing to something larger than the immediate self-interests of those involved. You’ll notice lots of sharing and listening in cooperative spaces. Diversity and tolerance are in evidence for, in this world, people avoid judging one another as better or worse. Here, amidst relaxed smiles, eye contact, and pleasant conversation, you detect a sense of solidarity. You are not alone but are among kindred spirits who reject the stressful, oppressive, endlessly striving, and competitive milieu of social structures that pit one person against another in an infinite zero-sum game. Feeling alone and despairing of the rat race? Take a trip to your local food co-op. You just may have your faith in the innate goodness mankind restored while you gather some fair-trade, organic apples and freshly baked bread.

Cooperative Games and the Whole Child

Educating the whole student, rather than engaging the rational intellect alone, is a goal of many educators (myself included.) And cooperative games are one of the best vehicles for engaging the whole student—hand, heart and mind—that I’ve seen.

On an intellectual level, Cooperative games pose challenges that take thinking and problem-solving power to solve. Players share ideas and strategies to win together—so mental faculties are fully activated.

Cooperative games engage the heart too. They facilitate sharing, caring and appreciation as participants laugh and play, overcoming obstacles together and achieving little victories. In playing cooperatively, there is joy in togetherness. This is experiential learning that opens the heart.

Cooperative games make for active, sensory learning, too. Many cooperative board games, certainly the ones we feature at our shop CooperativeGames.com, are visually appealing with lots of art and enchanting game pieces. And there are many free cooperative circle games and active PE games that get the body moving too! For example, we offer a free Cooperative Games PE curriculum that accompanies a nominal purchase of the Pocket Disc—a beautiful, fair-trade flying disc. Check the Educator’s Hub and Fun and Free section of CooperativeGames.com for more on active cooperative games for fun and physical play.

So it’s really through hands, hearts and minds that cooperative games work their magic!