Playing Osteology "Beer" Pong

For review sessions in my Human Osteology class, I often do Jeopardy.  I write a whole bunch of questions in three PowerPoints (oh, I do both Single and Double Jeopardy, along with a Final Jeopardy complete with doo-doo-doo think music!), and the students tend to get really involved.  I didn't feel like writing another set of questions for this week's review, and coincidentally Keith Chan* this week put up a blog post about his idea for a "Beer(less) Pong Study Session."  Would osteology "beer" pong work?  I was determined to find out.

First Step - Buying the necessary equipment.
Different beer pong shots. (via Wikipedia)
  • I stopped at Target and got a 6-pack of ping pong balls (about $3) and a 30-ct sleeve of 18oz red Solo cups** (about $3).  I also bought some dried beans, to weight the cups (as open drink containers are not allowed in my lab) (about $1.50).  And I got a stack of 3x5 index cards from the department supply closet.
Second Step - Game setup.
  • My TA and I measured out 8' on one of the lab tables (which seems to be regulation beer pong table length) and set up 10 cups on either end in a triangle, bowling pin-style. 
  • We gave each student 3 index cards and split the class into two teams.  (There are 15 students in my class.)  Each team consulted with one another to write questions to ask the opposing team.
  • The TA and I made a stack of half a dozen cards, to even out the numbers.  (That is, Team A ended up writing 17 questions, but Team B wrote 20.  So we gave Team A three of our questions.)  20 was a good number -- 2 cards for each cup.
  • The students decided which cards should go under which cup.  There's a bit of strategy here, as the middle cups are landed in the most, and the points of the triangle are landed in the least.  So students ended up putting harder questions on the easier-to-hit cups and easier questions on the harder-to-hit cups.
Third Step - Game play.
  • Play rotated from team to team, with each "thrower" ("ponger"?) getting 3 attempts.  If no ball was sunk, play went to the next team.
  • When a ball was thrown or bounced into a cup by the throwing team, the team whose cup it was asked one of the questions underneath it.  If the throwing team got the question right (as judged by the question authors, with me as referee/adjudicator), they got a point.
  • We didn't remove any cups (as I figured it would be easier to play if all 10 cups stayed there the whole time, moving questions if needed).
  • Game play continued until about 10 minutes before the end of class.
  • With time running out, we switched to Lightning Round.  All cards were collected from Team A, and 1 minute was placed on the clock.  Team B had the minute to answer as many of the remaining Team A-written questions as possible, or to pass on the question.  (A wrong answer put the question out of contention; a right answer earned a point.)  Then Team B's cards were read to Team A, which had a minute to answer as many as possible.
That's it!  We did this in a 75-minute class period, with about 20 minutes devoted to game set up and question writing, 45 minutes devoted to regular game play, and 5 minutes for the lightning round.  It was quite lively, especially considering their final papers were due today and many had stayed up late to put the finishing touches on them, and it attracted the attention of the department chair, the other biological anthropologist, and plenty of passers-by in the hallway.  

I'd definitely do it again, as I think having the students create the questions -- individually, but with consultation from a group, and aimed at an opposing team -- was educationally useful.  This worked much better than Osteology Pictionary and, I think, better than Osteology Jeopardy.  I'll put Osteology "Beer" Pong into regular rotation from now on!

* [Have you checked out Keith's Anthropomotron? Incredibly useful and free stature estimation app for Android or iPad, or website!]
** [For more on the cultural caché of red Solo cups, check out this post by Krystal D'Costa of Anthropology in Practice!]


Keith said…
Thanks again for trying out this activity! The observation that got my attention the most was how the students strategized where the questions would go. I had considered that element but did not mention it since it was not critical to the game. That the strategizing happened organically gives me the warm fuzzies because it means that the students are thinking about which material they are weakest at, and hopefully that knowledge will help them master the material.

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