The Bodily Fluids Game

By far the most successful teaching activity I’ve ever come up with – the most fun, the most memorable, and the most pedagogically effective – is the bodily fluids game I use in Week 4 of my Gender, Sexuality and the Bible module. Having shared it a couple of times with friends and colleagues, I thought it would be worth posting here so it’s more widely available. The goal of the game is to get people thinking about bodily fluids and the way that disgust functions within particular systems of gender, sexuality and society. The game consists of 16 cards, each with a different bodily fluid on it (it’s a non-exhaustive list so you could always tweak it). I’ve laminated mine but you don’t need to:

The game has two parts:

  1. In small groups, arrange the bodily fluids in order from the most to the least disgusting
  2. Take a look at the rankings you’ve produced in some groups. What makes some bodily fluids more disgusting than others.

Once we’ve played the game I talk the students through some of the theoretical arguments made by people like Mary Douglas and Julia Kristeva about gender, disgust, the self and society; but extensive testing suggests it’s fun to play even without the academic component.

One thought on “The Bodily Fluids Game

  1. Marika Rose

    I can tell your bodily fluids game is a winner, having made about 2 dozen of these over the years. I’m providing a sample. I use this one as a primer to others.

    Out of cardboard make four objects with straight edges, but whose outer edges cannot be fitted together to make a figure whose outer edge itself is a square. Squares and triangles work well. Except for diagonals, the pieces should have the edges of the same length, say 2 inches, suggesting that maybe they should fit together. Placing the diagonals against each other should not contribute to the making of a square.

    Place them in an envelope labeled with the instruction, “MAKE INTO A SQUARE USING ALL PIECES”. This instruction is accurate, but ambiguous. Ask students to get with three others around a common work surface, then give them the envelopes.

    I have found that small groups (3-5 members) work well. Fewer than 3 does not seem to provide enough diversity, and more than 5 introduces social issues (dominance and submission) that interfere. Depending on your class size, you may need several copies of the puzzle. I have found the pedagogy of your bodily fluids ‘exercise’ (what I call these) very useful for developing creative collaboration – a very strange idea for conventional students.

    After a number of failed attempts students will figure out that the square is on the inside, and the pieces are on the outside. The completed puzzle is where the puzzle pieces form the exterior of an empty square – not the standard assumption. Cross-group collaboration is OK, and so is a little coaching from you, but don’t tamper with the frustration too soon. Many differently sized squares can be made, once controlling enthymeme rules are discovered and cast aside. Students can witness themselves doing this. This exercise can be used when discussing Aristotle and not just as a primer to other exercises. It opens many avenues.

    More recently I have turned my attention to the development of a digital concordance of the constructs of social inquiry and individual becoming. Metanoia ON is viewable on your computer screen and each student can have her own copy, delivered directly to individual email addresses. Our delivery cannot penetrate firewalls, and sometimes individuals have set spam filters that interfere with delivery. Due to size constraints, it does not work well on smartphones. It can be integrated directly into Microsoft Word but works side-by-side with other word processors.

    If you would care to examine a complimentary copy, let me know. All I need is the email address of the computer from which you would view Metanoia ON.

    David DeShon PhD
    Emeritus of Western Michigan University
    Principal of Task Think Workshop

Comments are closed.