Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Lesson Plan: The Quandary Game

Grade Levels: 6-8, 9-12

In this lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 6-12, students use a free online game called Quandary to practice ethics, critical thinking and problem solving skills.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Apply critical thinking, problem solving, and decision-making skills to online game play and writing tasks.
  2. Analyze situations from multiple perspectives and viewpoints.
  3. Distinguish between facts, opinions, and solutions.
  4. Demonstrate 21st century skills such as global awareness, information literacy, communication, and collaboration.

Materials:

  • Computers for pairs or trios of students
  • Internet access for BrainPOP
  • Copies of the opinion tracker note taking page

Preparation:

This lesson plan is centered around the free online game Quandary. In Quandary, players must make difficult decisions in which there are no clear right or wrong answers but important consequences – to themselves, to others in the colony, and to the planet Braxos. In their interactions with other settlers in the futuristic colony, players must consider facts, opinions and solutions, just like in real life. You can view the Quandary standards mapping page to see a complete list of skills and concepts addressed through the game.

There are three episodes (scenarios) in Quandary. In Episode 1: Lost Sheep, a predator native to Braxos is attacking the sheep that the colony uses for food and clothes, but players learn that the predator also has medicinal value that could help the colonists fight disease. In Episode 2: Water War, the community’s public water well appears to be polluted, and the only other well belongs to a colonist who is charging for access. In Episode 3: Fashion Faction, the colony’s tailor has started making special alterations to the standard uniform for his friends, which some colonists say is dividing the community.

Each episode takes about 10-30 minutes to complete, depending on the speed of the player. The episodes don't have to be completed in order, but the whole class should explore the same episode simultaneously to facilitate meaningful discussions afterward. Quandary's registration system allows players to save their progress after each episode and return by logging-in at a different time. It’s not necessary to register to play the game, but note that progress will not be saved.

On the Quandary Teacher's Page, you can view a 5 minute video showing how Quandary is being used in the classroom. A printable game guide and lesson plan with tips on implementing the game are also available. Portions of the game description and lesson plan here have been adapted from the Quandary site.

To prepare for game play, print the opinion tracker page and make a class set of photocopies.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Tell students that they will be playing a game called Quandary. Ask students what they think the word "quandary" means.

  2. Play the one minute introductory video to introduce students to the objective of the game and provide context clues about the term "quandary".

  3. Pass out the opinion tracker page and encourage students to use the page to take notes during game play as needed.

  4. Pair students up (or have them work in groups of threes) and play one episode of the game. Encourage students to discuss the game with their peers and work collaboratively to make decisions. Allow approximately 15-20 minutes for game play. Students who finish early can replay the episode and see how things would have turned out differently when alternate choices are made. Students who don't finish in time can save their progress.

  5. Bring students back to a whole class discussion. Ask questions such as: What is the difference between a fact, an opinion, and a solution? What options did you have for solving the colony’s problem? What made you choose the solution you chose? Did you find it hard to choose? If so, why? How well did your colony do overall? What do you think the success of the colony depends on? How would you measure success? Can you come up with any other solutions to the dilemma? You could also have students write their reflections in a journal.

  6. You may want to use BrainPOP resources to help build student background knowledge about the dilemmas faced during the game and build cross-curricular connections:

    In Episode 1: Lost Sheep, a predator native to Braxos is attacking the sheep that the colony uses for food and clothes, but players learn that the predator also has medicinal value that could help the colonists fight disease. Use the Ecosystems, Food Chains, Natural Selection, and Vaccines topic pages to provide students with more information about the concepts.

    In Episode 2: Water War, the community’s public water well appears to be polluted, and the only other well belongs to a colonist who is charging for access. The Water, Water Supply, Ground Water, and Water Pollution movie topic pages can be used to build students' background knowledge.

    In Episode 3: Fashion Faction, the colony’s tailor has started making special alterations to the standard uniform for his friends, which some colonists say is dividing the community. The Bill of Rights, Civil Right, Court System, and Democracy movies can be used to help students make connections to our own society and rules.

  7. Provide another 15 minutes for students to explore the same episode, either picking up where they left off if they saved their progress, or starting fresh and making new decisions based on what they learned during the class discussion.

  8. Have students save their work if they haven't finished and talk with their group for 2-3 minutes: What if there was another colony on Planet Braxos with a different Captain? How would this impact your decisions?

  9. Assess student learning by asking students to reflect in writing about key concepts. You may want to have them reflect on prompts such as Why do you think it’s important to understand other points of views? or Have you ever faced a similar problem in your own life – a problem where there’s no clear answer and you didn’t know what to do? Is there anything that you learned from the game that would help you make decisions when you face similar problems in your own life?

Extension Activity:

Have students explore the other two episodes of the game, either in class or as homework followed by a debriefing session in class. You can also lead a whole group game session by project Quandary onto your interactive whiteboard and facilitating discussion through each step of game play.