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Case study: Innovate Springfield

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Case study: Innovate Springfield

DIY Game moderator Nadia Gronkowski recently documented how she has used The Brain Architecture Game to improve her organizational mission.

Nadia’s background is in early childhood education, environmental education, and environmental policy.  She is the Social Innovation Program Coordinator for Innovate Springfield in Springfield, Illinois.

Her organization is implementing a locally-written report — the Sangamon Success Report — which recommends that we teach more adults in our community about executive functions and children’s brain development.

The organization taught a group of 45 adults about childhood brain development.  The class was for emerging leaders in their community, and each of their sessions has a different theme.  The game was presented on Education Day.

It went extremely well and everyone was very engaged in the game…This was just the first of many times that we hope to use the game for this purpose, but I think it impacted our audience in that it provided an interesting “hook” to get people interested in brain development AND less-advantaged children in our community.  It is almost like it’s an excellent marketing tool of sorts to really get people engaged around what affects less-advantaged kids and how can we make sure their brains don’t topple over in real life. (Nadia Gronkowski)

On our moderator survey, we asked whether people have memorable moments to share, positive or negative. These are some of the moments Nadia had to share with us:

As the groups were finishing up, a couple of groups that were finished took all of the weights that were left over and put them on their brain structure. When it still didn’t topple, they started taking other objects — water bottles, iPhones, etc — and placing those on the brains too. It wasn’t part of the game, but it was still entertaining for them to test the strength of their structures in additional ways.

We had another group whose brain really didn’t look like it was going to make it, but in the end it didn’t topple over. They had a very strong sense of relief when they finished the game with their oddly-shaped brain still standing tall.

Overall, I think the most interesting thing to see is the story that groups start to weave about their brain as they draw cards throughout the game. Without any prompting from me, they started to connect the life experience cards in a narrative as though they’re telling the story of a real person’s life. We even had one group name the child that their brain belonged to.

On behalf of The Brain Architecture Game team, thank you Nadia and Innovate Springfield for your dedication to child development!

P.S. If you are an existing game moderator and would like to contribute your feedback for a case study and/or for quality improvement, we will give you 10% off your next purchase.


Summer 2016 Update

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Summer 2016 Update

When are the Readymades going to be available (and other questions)?

Ah…This is indeed the million dollar question everyone has been emailing me about… 🙂

We were planning to have the Readymades ready (!) in late summer, but we had a number of things left to refine with the factory in China. Some of the things you will see in the factory version that differs from the small edition of Readymades we sold in February are as follows:

  1. Pipe cleaners and straws will now all be pastel-colored to align with our branding better and communicate the overall spirit of the game.
  2. New types of weights – injection molded plastic with a long hook so they cannot break easily, be separated, or be swallowed (gasp!)
  3. A tuck box will be included so the cards can be neatly put away at the end of the game.
  4. An extra set separator cards will be included to divide the deck in a more visually direct manner.

The factory has given us an estimate of completion by end of August 2016. With sea shipping, this means that around November 2016 we should have the units in our California warehouse for shipping.

We have ordered enough units to last for 4-6 months depending on demand, which gives us enough time to re-order the next sets without being out of stock for a long time.

Please note that due to tax import complications, we do not know if we can ship outside of the US and Canada at the moment. We are not a big enough operation yet to handle registering for doing business and paying taxes in every country that has expressed interest in importing the game. This doesn’t mean it will not happen in the future, but it will not happen this year. Same goes for accepting purchase orders. We have to scale our project carefully and slowly. It is not as easy as what you see in the TV show Shark Tank 😉

Meantime, the DIY English version has been serving hundreds of customers worldwide very well. We have released the DIY Portuguese version already. The highly anticipated DIY Spanish version will be available in September 2016.

Thank you for being patient and for supporting this project and the science of early childhood.

Marientina Gotsis
Executive Producer


I can finally say it: we are live!

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I can finally say it: we are live!

It has been a long way coming — a tremendous amount of work, love, and funding have gone into this project. I didn’t know back in 2009 when I met Pat Levitt that this game would become so important to my life and to the (now) thousands of people who have played.

Many of you are wondering how this game was born. It started with Pat Levitt dropping off a handful of booklets and working papers from the Center on Developing Child at Harvard University and a very late night of reading and brainstorming. After a leap of faith by Harvard and some seed funding, we went through a lot of versions and materials to get the physics of the construction just right and to establish a game system that made sense.

Somewhere amidst revisions and presentations, Judy Cameron took another leap of faith and we conducted our first playtest in a workshop she led. For several years Judy used the game and we made revisions as needed.

Below are some of the materials we tried.

It was obvious in playtests that the game was helping to communicate basic concepts of the science of early childhood and that people were having fun doing it. The Palix Foundation was generous to adopt and promote the game in their education efforts and outreach.

Many people were critical to the success of this game starting with Judy Cameron, Al Race and Susan Bales. Our institutional partnership has been complicated to figure out, but our working collaboration has been extraordinary.

I would like to take a moment to thank all the members of the original team below, as well as the extended team.

Our team has grown a lot and I have met many people along the way who care about making this project a success. The science behind this game has personally transformed the way that I teach, as well as the way that I live my life and understand the lives of others.


Pat Levitt (center back), Maryalice Jordan-Marsh (back left) and our class from SOWK 799: Interactive Media and Informatics for Neurobiological and Behavioral Research and Translational Science


I would like to thank the Palix Foundation and the tireless Marisa Etmanski, Evans Hunt and Julie Sweetland for jumping in the cold water with us to make this happen, for pushing me and my team to do better, and for really caring about what we are trying to promote. Lastly, I have to thank many people in my school and division who gave advice, inspiration and/or support, including Tracy Fullerton, Elizabeth Swensen, and Sean Bouchard, whose FutureBound games inspired me, and Jesse Vigil.

We still have a long way to go. The online version is only the first step to getting the game into the hands of people who want it and need it, scientists, policymakers, teachers, health professionals, and so many more who could benefit from using the game in workshops and conferences. We hope that this version can serve some urgent needs. We will continue to refine the game.

The next big thing is a packaged set, likely in the form of 3-packs, which can help people who are running larger sessions. Our survey of subscribers showed that up to half of potential users may be ok with the DIY version. For the other half, we’re working with a game manufacturer and distributor to develop a solution for volume purchasing. Stay tuned.

In addition, we will be reviewing some of our recently collected evaluation data and devising a replicable and scalable evaluation for all potential users so that you can measure the entertainment efficacy, perceived value, attitudes on resilience, overall usability, and other factors that may influence the effectiveness of the game.

Above all, this operation must become sustainable. We’re not making this for profit, but we have to be able to cover all expenses needed to maintain this game and what is needed to update it. All game revenue is to be reinvested into what is needed to keep the game going.

I look forward to hearing from you. I very much appreciate your patience, as well as the bravery it takes to walk into a room of grownups with a bunch of pipe cleaners and straws and say “trust me” 🙂


Marientina Gotsis, MFA
Executive Producer
The Brain Architecture Game


Playing in Tennessee

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Playing in Tennessee

Judy Cameron led a group of almost 200 people who played the game in Tennessee on November 12, 2015.

According to the feature article that described the event, Tennessee was one of the first states to begin to measure the prevalence of childhood adversity.

“First lady Crissy Haslam worked with Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Sharon Lee. At a nearby table TennCare Director Darin Gordon and Department of Human Services Commissioner Raquel Hatter puzzled through creating their own sturdy brain model, as did lawmakers, mayors, judges, doctors, child welfare experts, philanthropists, business executives and educators.”

Screenshot 2016-01-11 22.38.16




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Greetings everyone! We had to move our inventory between two California warehouses this past month and thus were unable to ship any Ready Mades. We're happy to inform you that as of today, we are ready for US and Canadian-bound orders again! Thank you for your patience :) ...
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