When classes resume this fall at Ohio University's Pickerington Center and Lancaster campus, some students will seek to create learning tools to aid hearing-impaired children and teens throughout the U.S.

When classes resume this fall at Ohio University's Pickerington Center and Lancaster campus, some students will seek to create learning tools to aid hearing-impaired children and teens throughout the U.S.

Each year, Beck Brooks and Lorraine Rogers, professors at Ohio University's Pickerington Center and Lancaster campus, challenge their American Sign Language III students to give back.

Over the last several years, they've pushed students to delve into research about deaf people, how they view the world and what drives their learning processes. The result has been the creation of countless board games designed to teach such topics as deaf history and culture, sentence structure and math.

"Deaf culture has really been a passion of mine for about 20 years," said Brooks, who also teaches communications and deaf studies at the university. "The game projects, they actually were developed a couple years ago.

"I wanted to give back to the deaf community. At the same time, I wanted to fill this void in deaf education, and they don't have a lot of games geared to them."

Brooks and Rogers began pooling ideas about games to enhance learning among deaf people. Although students are restricted from simply recreating an existing game, they are given leeway to develop all facets of their games.

"They look at how they can make it fun," Brooks said. "They incorporate signs into word problems, create games about deaf history and things like that. There's a lot of research that goes into it."

The ASL students use spreadsheets and graphics to create the game layouts and mount them on game boards. In some cases, they include notebooks, carrying cases and graphics on flash drives so that teachers can create more cards and more questions.

Brooks and Rogers hold "game days" where students play and critique each other's games. From there, refinements are made, and the games are laminated and submitted to Brooks and Rogers, who, along with members of the deaf community, use a rubric to score the assignment.

Last year, students Jamie Bruner and Jennifer Seifert created "Math Stack." It features a range of addition and subtraction word problems, a farm theme complete with haystack and pitchfork cards and animal pictures because deaf children are visual and tactile learners.

"Math Stack" this year will be used at the North Dakota School for the Deaf, where Bruner's father was a professor in 1952.

"We thought the theme geographically fit in with North Dakota," Bruner said.

"Deaf Trivia Now!," created by Abbie Dandurand and Dana DeHays, targets middle school students with its history timeline and will be used at the Illinois School for the Deaf next school year.

"I tried to find 10 questions every day, so the game wouldn't be too short," Dandurand said.

In addition to research and creativity, Brooks said, students finance the materials needed to create their games. The project has evolved to the point that students -- not professors -- locate schools that could benefit from the games.

"They often go in together and they pull in other classes, which is really neat because they combine their ideas and skills," Brooks said. "The students are responsible for shipping the games off, and they've been sent everywhere in the United States."

Brooks isn't sure how many games have been sent or used in classrooms over the years, but estimated that 50 were sent out last year alone.

"It's amazing," she said. "They're great games. We'll be going it again in the fall, and we're excited about it."

nellis@thisweeknews.com