Updated: 02/04/2014 5:58 AM
Created: 02/03/2014 5:20 PM KSTP.com
By: Kate Renner
A teacher at North Lakes Academy in Forest Lake is reinventing the way he teaches students about the world. He's developed a website that works like "fantasy football" except the students draft countries to play "fantasy geo-politics."
Ask any boss or teacher, nothing wastes time more than fantasy football. Eric Nelson even caught the fantasy bug in college while creating his social studies curriculum. "So I thought about having students draft countries, world leaders and develop global competence that way," said Nelson.
And he's found nothing breeds competence like fierce competition.
"I can compete with my fellow classmates, it makes it way more intense. Yeah, oh yea, I smack talk," said Cody Warren, Senior at North Lake Academy.
"Now I'm like looking up articles on countries and trying to figure out which countries to switch with mine," said Alissa Gmyrek, Junior at North Lake Academy.
On Monday the students were drafting countries for the Winter Olympics. First pick went to Germany.
Each country gets assigned a number of points based on how many times they're mentioned in the New York Times.
Students can continue to do research at home, and make trades at the website www.FantasyGeopolitics.com.
"The more a student figures something out about a country, the more they want to dive in and learn about it because it helps them do better on their team," said Nelson.
Nelson has turned another distraction into an asset in his lessons, he lets them use their smart phones. "They're always on their phones, always on technology, but they're using it differently now," said Nelson.
"I used my phone and looked up the past rankings, as far as medals went and drafted the ones that were still available," said Cody Warren.
It's a new way to make a distraction into an educational attraction. Close to 30 classrooms across the country are testing out the Fantasy Geopolitics program online.
Nelson says winning and losing in the fantasy league doesn't affect the students' grades, but they take it seriously for bragging rights.
Nelson is trying to improve the website and make it more interactive for students. He started a Kickstarter campaign and has almost reached his goal of $10,000. There are still 11 days to go, and so far backers have pledged more than $8,800.