D.C. Pupils Try Their Hand

It's just a game, but Washington educators received with all seriousness the new form of trivia -- on black history -- that was introduced to educators and students yesterday.

The game, called Rise 'n' Fly, asks questions on both prominent and obscure historical facts concerning black Americans' contributions to politics, sports, arts and literature here and abroad.

Similar to Trivial Pursuit, the game is just what educators had been looking for to help students get a better understanding of the impact blacks have had on modern civilization, said John Simpson, vice principal of Jefferson Junior High School.

"Black History Month is celebrated every February and many of us tuck away information about blacks until then," Simpson said. "This game is something we can use all year long. It's very good supplementary educational material."

Information contained in the game concerning black scientists, inventors and other achievers may especially help to motivate underachieving black students to work harder at their studies, he and other school officials said.

"When they see that blacks have done great things in certain fields, they'll know that those doors have already been opened for them. That should inspire them," Simpson said.

James Guines, D.C. schools' assistant superintendent for curriculm development, agreed. He said, "The knowledge students can gain from the game can have a positive and long-lasting effect on their intellectual and emotional growth."

The school system bought 40 copies of Rise 'n' Fly recently to distribute to high schools and junior high schools throughout the city, Guines said. It may help stimulate students' interest in the system's few black studies courses, he said.

At present, a black history course and a minorities in American life course are taught at six schools, with an average of 30 students enrolled in them at each school, officials said.

Many youngsters said they have taken a liking to the game because "it's fun."

Clifton Williams, 13, an eighth-grader at Jefferson, said the game "shows you how far we've gotten in America and the . . . progress we have yet to make. It makes me think that maybe I can be a part of history, too."

Students don't have to be black to enjoy playing the game, said several who played it for the first time in the Jefferson school library.

"To me this game is educational and fun," said Chung Ming Lee, 12, who is of Asian descent. "While you're playing, you're learning."

Karyn White, 13, said the game is "great" because it contains questions on challenging subjects such as Africa as well as familiar ones, like rock star Michael Jackson.

On one card, for instance, three questions are asked: 1) Who is known as the "father of black history?" 2) How many brothers does Michael Jackson have? and 3) In World War I, how many blacks were drafted for service?

The answers, respectively, are: 1) Carter G. Woodson, 2) Five and 3) 1,380,000.

"The game can be played by entire families or by children amongst themselves," said Linda Olds, who created the game last summer and explained it to about 30 Jefferson students. She said the rules of the game are similar to those of Bid Whist, a card game popular among blacks.

A teacher and parent of two small children, Olds lives in Wilmington, Del. One day, she said, she got upset that her oldest son, 10, didn't know basic information about his heritage.

"The schools just weren't doing much with him. So, I figured I had to do something. I see the black race as being an extended family and if we don't know what each other has done, we lose something precious.

"Other races of people -- the Jews, for instance -- make sure their children get a positive self-image. I respect them for that. This game is an attempt to stimulate a similar kind of self-development."