Students with masks at ASU

Virtual Extreme Event Game Played at Arizona State University

While going back to school looks different for every teacher and student this year, we wanted to share how professors at Arizona State University facilitated a virtual Extreme Event game. We hope that their experience can act as both guidance and inspiration to enable other educators to use Extreme Event no matter what their classroom setup might be. The Extreme Event game builds disaster resilience, and is used in classrooms and community groups throughout the world.

Extreme Event on computer

We recently heard from Alysha Helmrich, a PhD candidate at the Arizona State University’s School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, and Dr. Samuel Markolf, SETS Postdoctoral Fellow, Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network, about how they facilitated Extreme Event for their students remotely this summer.

Alysha and Dr. Markolf used the Extreme Event game with their Earth Systems Engineering and Management course. This course introduces students to the conceptual and practical challenges arising from design, operation, and management of earth systems in the context of the Anthropocene, characterized by an integrated human, natural, and built complex adaptive systems at local, regional, and global scales. Alysha wrote, “We used the Extreme Event game after concluding multiple sessions on sustainability, resilience, and urban resilience. The teaching team, Dr. Samuel Markolf and myself, wanted to use the Extreme Event game to allow the class to 1) apply the topics they had been learning about in class and 2) approach the topic from a new perspective.”

Students at Arizona State University. Photo Credit: Arizona State University

Using a combination of Zoom, Google Drive, and MURAL (described by Alysha as “a virtual whiteboard”), Alysha and Dr. Markolf successfully facilitated Extreme Event Earthquake for their class. Students were pre-assigned roles prior to the class period and then had access to all of the game materials via Google Drive during the facilitation. After the facilitator introduction, students were placed in breakout rooms by sector for introductions and discussions of their roles. Students came back to the main room for further instruction regarding the selection of resource cards and were again sent to their sector breakout rooms. While in their breakout rooms, each sector had access to MURAL where their resource cards were listed and they could discuss which resources they were going to keep. Once selections were made, students were called back to the main room and the facilitators continued the script.

After the earthquake struck, students were placed in breakout rooms based on their neighborhood assignments and had access to MURAL where their challenge boards were located. Students were given time to discuss with their neighborhood how they planned to solve their challenge and then randomly assigned into rotating breakout rooms to facilitate the trading of resources. Students kept track of the resources they acquired for their neighborhood using MURAL. Alysha and Dr. Markolf monitored the conversations in the breakout rooms and on MURAL and then brought all of the students back together in Zoom for the recover and adapt phases of the game.

Dr. Samuel Markolf, SETS Postdoctoral Fellow (left) and Alysha Helmrich, a PhD candidate at the Arizona State University

While Alysha and Dr. Markolf were nervous about trying to get so many students engaged via Zoom, they felt the experience went well. “On the call, we could see students engaging with the materials provided and in the discussion rooms. After the call, we did receive feedback from the students. A couple of the major takeaways were the 1) ability to assess a situation from a new perspective and 2) importance of engaging multiple stakeholders and collaborating in order to take action and help alleviate some uncertainty in complex situations.” She added, “We decided to add another large group roleplaying activity because of the positive feedback we received from the Extreme Event game!”

Have you facilitated Extreme Event virtually? We want to hear from you! Please share your experience with us at labx@nas.edu.


Watch the video below to see a quick trailer of the Extreme Event game, then learn how to bring the Extreme Event Game to your group, community or classroom. You can do-it-yourself and download the game materials free, or rent the game materials for mailing costs.


If you have run the Extreme Event Game in your group or classroom, we would love to feature a story about you! Send email to labx@nas.edu.