AGazine, June 2015

The Online Magazine of the Academic Games Leagues of America

News & Notes Outstanding Educator Outstanding Senior Down Memory Lane Past AGazines


News and Notes

Letter from Naomi Fonseka

Following the 50th Anniversary Academic Games National Tournament in Orlando in April, Steve and Sandy Wright, coaches of the St. Lawrence School (MI) team, received this letter from one of their players.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Wright,

First of all, I want to thank you for the fantastic experience I was given at the Nationals. Because of you, I enjoyed a very memorable occasion, a new introduction to diversity, and gained a mind full of new knowledge. Because of you, I was a proud player at the 2015 Academic Games National Tournament on its 50th anniversary.

I met people unlike anyone I had ever encountered before. For instance, Megan Shah, a sixth grade opponent of mine from Palm Beach. She played me first in Current Events and then in Equations. She had a fun attitude and hopes that skyrocketed higher than the sun, just like me.

And even better, we both had wishes that came true. Everywhere I saw her we had short conversations, until we were almost good friends. I felt so close to her, that every time she went up during the Awards Ceremony, I could not help but stand up and clap. Opponents are not meant to be enemies … except when we are both tied for first! (lol). Even so, Megan was a close friend, and a worthy opponent, who never gave up.

Aside from the possibility to make lifelong friends at this National Tournament of bright minds and diversity, I got a new look at people from all over. At the State Tournament, I saw people I had seen many times before at the Saturday Tournaments. But at the Nationals, I was exposed to a new wave of kids from all over the country, and some as far as India. I remember being beaten by two points in Equations from one of the special international visitors. Two points! Can you believe that? I remember especially a very bright boy named Carter from Colorado who beat me in On-Sets. He was so bold, with a quick working mind. He was fast to grab the challenge cube, and even faster to jot down a Solution when no one else had one. Playing at the Nationals, I was exposed to a new set of challenges, and what came with it was a sense of amazing sportsmanship!

I would have to say my best moments were not on stage when I was presented with a second place Prop Thinker or a fourth Place World Card Medal, but rather sitting in the tournament rooms and scribbling fast, thinking hard, and rapping myself on the forehead when I could not think of answers. The most memorable times were shaking an opponent’s hand not with pride, but with a feeling of integrity and pride knowing I gave my best. The most unforgettable times were winning and losing, feeling the wave of emotions that comes with both.

However, what I am most proud of is to be your student. You are both coaches with integrity, discipline, leadership, hard work, optimism, and cheerfulness … my list goes on and on and on. Being a student under a different coach would not have provided me and my team with the same full experience as the one we just had. I was not pushed to be perfect, but encouraged to do my best. I was not pressured to be flawless, but to reach for the stars and to leap as high as I could. And hey, like Paul Brandt always says, “Don’t tell me the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon.”

I am so blessed to be a member of the St. Lawrence Academic Games team. I truly thank you for the opportunity. My first National Tournament is over, but more is already on its way. I can’t wait to begin our next season! God bless you and have a great summer!

Lots of hugs,
Your blessed student,

Rules Changes for 2015-16

  • Propaganda
    The sections for next year are A, B, C, F.
  • Presidents
    Elementary/Middle play presidents #1-24.
    The theme in all divisions is Presidential Quotes.
    In Junior/Senior, a second theme is Occupations and Posts. Also Jr/Sr clues for #25-44 may involve U.S. Leaders Group 3: Henry Clay, Benjamin Franklin, William Lloyd Garrison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, John Marshall, Daniel Webster.
  • World Events
    The theme is the Civil War. The outline will be posted near July 1.
  • Changes in cubes games will be posted in the coming months.


Outstanding Educator: Alex Baker

Alex Baker played Academic Games for six years and has coached for seven years in Ann Arbor, MI.

In his nomination for Alex, Eric Nelson wrote: Our high school team has always been successful, but it has rarely, if ever, been as large as it has grown in the last three years under Alex’s leadership. We had six different teams at the state tournament this year, and five of them won state championships and qualified for Nationals.

In addition to coaching, Alex has been a region director and a member of the Michigan League of Academic Games steering committee and has coordinated games at the state tournament for the last three years.

He has also volunteered to be a fundraising coordinator for the new 501(c)3 Ann Arbor Academic Games is creating.

Eric recalled the first year Alex played Academic Games.

My first memory of Alex is him breaking down emotionally as a small sixth grader at his first Academic Games state tournament. What I didn’t know then is that he would grow to become a Hall of Fame player and part of one of the greatest teams to ever play, winners of five straight sweepstakes championships. As a youngster, Alex was nearly incorrigible, often going for the cheap joke to the point of annoyance for his coaches (Hall of Famers Adrian Prather, Ben Coleman, and others). But this devilish sense of humor was accompanied by an immense dedication and unending passion for Academic Games and an amazing playing ability.

After his playing career was over, Alex spent four years in college at Washington University in St. Louis, before returning to Ann Arbor to help coach at the local middle school where he first learned the games. After a few years, he again had to leave, this time for work. But after a few years, he heard that the high school program was going to be without a coach, and he again returned. It is as a high school coach that he has really found his niche. His willingness to practice any time and anywhere and his constant search for ways to engage students, to take the immense knowledge they have learned in AG and apply it to life situations has made AG a can’t miss function for all his students. His easy-going manner and rich sense of humor are the perfect counterpart to the stress that the students often feel at the gaming table. He understands that, more than just winning and losing, Academic Games is about growing as a person, about being able to challenge yourself to become a person of excellence and integrity, and being able to respect yourself, and your opponents. As he often tells his kids, (paraphrasing) “Academic Games helped me grow as a person, and become mature, and I want you to benefit from it in the same way.” The growth in size in his teams the last three to four years is a testament to how much students (and parents) appreciate the vision he has for the program.

It only seems appropriate to me that we should honor a Hall of Fame player as an outstanding educator. For the truth is, even if had never won a single match as a player, Alex would deserve this award for all that he’s done for his players and the rest of the Academic Games program in Ann Arbor.

Alex Baker (R) with Adrian Prather at Orlando Nationals 2015

Alex Baker (R) with Adrian Prather at Orlando Nationals 2015


Outstanding Senior: Brittany Fischer

Brittany Fischer played Academic Games for seven years in Palm Beach County FL, most recently at Suncoast Community High School.

She was an outstanding player, particularly in the Social Studies games. Brittany was also an excellent team mate in Equations, Propaganda, and LinguiSHTIK.

Like all Outstanding Senior award winners, Brittany went beyond just being a good team mate, as her nomination attests.

Brittany has been helping the Equations, Language Arts, and Social Studies teams at a local middle school for the past three years. She not only coaches the players, but she has taken it upon herself to create in-depth study materials and worksheets. She has even researched information to share with the players. Of the two weekly practices, she would direct one of them on her own. She offered to meet players on Saturdays for practice at the library on her own time.

Brittany has also been a supportive coach for her high school teams. She knew more about Academic Games than the sponsor and made sure that the members of her team were prepared for the weekly competitions.

When called upon, Brittany showed great skill in writing social studies questions for practice and local competitions. She was always willing to do whatever was asked of her if it meant helping other players be successful, and she always went above and beyond what was asked.

The nominators could not limit themselves to just one Academic Games memory of Brittany.

In her middle school years, I remember a quiet girl, studying the social studies materials intently. Watching her in high school was like watching a rose bud open.

In spite of an unbelievably bad home environment, Brittany remained quietly positive, hopeful, and strong. In the face of challenges that most people would find overwhelming and defeating, Brittany persevered. She truly fits the word “outstanding” because of her achievements. She’s graduating from one of the top-rated International Baccalaureate high schools in the nation. She was chosen as an intern to work with the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience last summer. If you read her story, you will see that she says, “Academic Games has been my only true source of stability in my life…I accept that life may have damaged me, but with the assistance of Academic Games, I refuse to let that limit me, and I will overcome whatever obstacles I encounter.”

Brittany will attend the University of Florida in the fall. Let’s close with more words from her.

Being able to help other students realize their potential, just as Academic Games did for me, opened my eyes to a world of fulfilment. I hope to continue to enable students to visualize their capabilities for the rest of my life, for I aspire to become a coach myself and perhaps start my own Academic Games league!

Brittany Fischer with her presenter, Ellen Bredeweg at Orlando Nationals 2015

Brittany Fischer (R) with her presenter, Ellen Bredeweg at Orlando Nationals 2015


Down Memory Lane

I Think, Therefore … I Play: Celebrating 50 Years of Academic Games, prepared by Stu White for the 2015 tournament in Orlando, is a treasure trove of memories. Here’s one of the many stories in this magnificent publication.

Laymen Allen

The mental revolution that we call Academic Games had its roots at Yale University and Kent State University. Two professors separately created systems of learning that led directly to the emergence of gaming as a genuine educational tool and ultimately to the breadth and spectacle of the National Academic Games Tournament.

Layman Allen, at Yale in the early 1960’s, felt that the legal establishment was writing ambiguous laws – laws that were not clear. He turned to symbolic logic and invented a game called WFF ‘N Proof that taught his Sunday school classes how to think logically. The title was inspired by the world-renowned Yale a cappella group, the Whiffenpoofs. The results were dramatic. In controlled testing groups, students produced remarkable increases in logical thinking.

Bob Allen

At about the same time, George Henry Moulds at Kent State had analyzed ways that people dupe each other in order to influence or change the behavior of others. He organized those techniques into a college course and into a book entitled Thinking Straighter. One of his students at Kent State was Robert Allen, younger brother of Layman.

To be continued …

Comments are closed.