Cause and effect

Game helps teach consequences of development, sprawl

By Dave Barnes

Herald News Service

Northwest Herald of McHenry County, Community Section, February 8, 2001

Woodstock- For most school children, few activities are more boring than a lecture on the environment.

No one is more aware of that than Woodstock artist Nancy Steinmeyer, a member of the McHenry County Defenders and creator of a board game designed to mix family fun with ecological awareness.

Steinmeyer and her game called "Landmark Decisions," took center stage Wednesday night during the Defenders’ monthly Full Moon Theater in the Old Courthouse Art Center on the Square.

The board game is divided into 32 squares of undeveloped land, and players take turns deciding whether to develop their squares with housing, industry or pipelines or to leave them as wetlands, farms or wilderness.

"The game talks about cause and effect, "Steinmeyer said. "It shows that if you do one thing else will happen as a result. If you put in a housing development, for example, corn won’t grow there."

As part of the game, players draw cards bearing environmental facts and ecologically friendly suggestions.

Steinmeyer said she targeted her game to appeal to 8 and 10-year-olds while keeping it interesting for adults.

"Remember when we were kids, we thought nothing of littering," said Steinmeyer, a professional artist for 22 years. "I don’t know what we were thinking then. But the idea of reaching the kids and getting the message across in a fun way really appeals to me."

Steinmeyer said it took her a few weeks to conceptualize the game, and about six months to develop it. For Wednesday’s public unveiling, she brought four sets of the game for the crowd of about 50 children and adults to compete in an elimination tournament.

"It’s really a great game," said Alaine Lecuyer, 14, a student at Prairie Ridge High School and winner of the first round. "It teaches a lot about how to look at your community and the world in general."

Brian Clow, 10, also enjoyed the game even though he lost his round. "We are a big board-game family,: Clow said, "My favorite game is "Life", but this was a lot of fun. Yeah, I’d play it if we has one at home."

With 16 players at a time crowed around the four boards the non-players browsed through the art gallery to look at Steinmeyer’s three-dimensional paintings hung to reenforce the "Landmark Decisions" message.

Each of the works consists of a conventional flat painting of a landscape with a slightly different painting of the same scene rendered on a screen that extends a few inches outward, giving the combined image a holographic effect. The idea, Steinmeyer said, is "to show what use to be there and what could be there" with the one image superimposed over the other. Like her board game, it’s a style Steinmeyer developed herself" and I’m very proud of it."

"Nancy’s format is a powerful one. It draws people in and everyone understands it, " Old Courthouse Art Center owner Bev Ganschow said. "As other artists have told me, she has taken the unique opportunity that artists have to express themselves to a unique and highly skilled level."

Steinmeyer’s paintings will be on display in the gallery through the end of the month. Ganschow said. As for her board game, Steinmeyer said she "would love to market it, but that’s a major finanical challenge." For now, she plans to circulate the four copies she has made among other ecologically-minded groups.

The Defenders’ next Full Moon Theater is March 15 at Java Junction in the Woodstock [Illinois] Metra station.


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