The World Game material has a long scientific history
In 1911, H. G. Wells published a book with the name `Floor games`. In it, he describes how he stimulated the imagination and inventiveness of his son by building cities together out of wooden toy elements. Not only did his son incorporate personal elements into what he built, but his future capabilities also emerged. His book was read by both Margaret Löwenfeld and Melanie Klein.
Wells, H.G., Floor Games: a fathers`s Account of Play and its Legacy of Healing, London, 1911. (heruitgave Cloverdale, 2004)
Margaret Löwenfeld was a British pioneer of child psychology and play therapy. After reading Wells` book, she searched for a way to capture children`s expressions in a framework and interpret them. She paid special attention to age in relationship to behaviour and personally determined characteristics. She put the material in therapeutic environment.
Lowenfeld, M. (1954) The Lowenfeld Mosaic Test. Londone: Newman Meane.
Melanie Klein was an Austrian/British psychoanalyst. She used the `game material` as a base for psychoanalytic treatment of children. As a way of investigating the psychological aspect of `how does a person experience their world` more closely.
Klein, Melanie, CAF – Every child matters Löwenfeld, Margaret, World techniques: Play in childhood. Cambridge, 1935
Charlotte Bühler was a German developmental psychologist at the University of Vienna.
In 1936 she decided to further investigate the treatment of the World Game material and focussed on the development of the child and worked on the standardisation of the game.
Bühler, C&Hetzer, H. Kleinkindertests. Entwicklungstests vom 1.bis 6. Lebensjahr
Leipzig, 1932 Bühler, Charlotte, Practische Kinderpsychologie. Utrecht, 1949
Bühler, C. (1951) The world test: a projective technique. Journal of child Psychiatry 2:4-2
In the same year, the World Game reached the Netherlands. For years the game was used in the well-known school De Werkplaats (`the Workplace`) of Kees Boeke, a Socratic `school` based on the principals of Montessori. The Dutch princesses (and former queen Beatrix) were students there.
In 1947 L.N.J. Kamp, doctor and psychiatrist at the University of Utrecht, searched for norms in the form of age criteria. Which manner of handling the material has preference at a certain age? In other words: How does a toddler build? How does an 8-year-old build? How does a 12-year-old build?
Kamp, L.N.J., Speldiagnostiek. 1947
Also Maria Krabbe had a great influence on the development of the World Game.
She was a speech therapist in the 30s and 40s of the last century and the first Dutch pioneer in the field of treatment for children with severe reading and language problems. She published experiences about children with reading and linguistic barriers, which she called: Beelddenken (visual-spatial thinking). She did a lot of research and in 1951 she wrote a book: `Beelddenken en woordblindheid` (Visual thinking and word blindness).
So, to conclude, the period between 1900 – 1950 several people from different disciplines used the World Game material as a research tool. Despite the very different starting points there also many similarities to be found. Four categories emerge over and over:
- The character structure
- The mental age
- The cultural pattern
- The inner world of the child
Drs. P.J. (Nel) Ojemann, pedagogue and teacher at the University of Groningen, was the founder of the World Game as it is used now by hundreds of educational professionals in the Netherlands. In 1955 she became aware of the World Game from Kamp`s publication and combined it with Krabbe`s research about visual thinking.
Ojemann saw the WG as a research tool in education: a way to prevent problems and an action plan for learning guidance. In the years that followed, because of her research and practical experience in Holland and Belgium, a lot of attention was paid to the standardisation and design of the World Game.
Ojemann made a connection between the development of the 5 to 12-year-old child`s handling of the World Game material and the handling of letters and numbers in the educational learning process. This all resulted in 1976 in a first manual for observation, operation and assessment of the end product of the World Game.
Ojemann, P.C. Het verschil in de wijze van uitwerking van het wereldspel door het al dan niet dyslectische kind. Scriptie MO-A Amsterdam 1955
In the 80`s Ojemann made an initial design for the development of a Visual Thinking Expert System. She published the book: `Woordblindheid en beelddenken` (Word blindness and visual thinking) .
In 1994 the first Dutch conference about visual-spatial thinking and the World Game took place.
P.C. Ojemann, Ondersteuning van systeemgerelateerde leermoeilijkheden. Tijdschrift voorRemedial Teaching 97/3. 1996-1998
P.C. Ojemann, J. Ockels, Het wereldspel in perspectief 1996
P.C. Ojemann, H. Brouwer, T. Kruizenga, Beelddenken bij kleuters (handleiding cursus waarnemen en signaleren) 1996; uitgave Bureau Ojemann
P.C. Ojemann, H. Brouwer, T. Kruizenga Beelddenken in het onderwijs 1998 (handleiding cursus waarnemen en signaleren)
P.C. Ojemann Ondersteuning van systeem gerelateerde leermoeilijkheden 1998
In 1996 Ojemann published the manual: `Het Wereldspel in perspectief` (The World Game in perspective) and started educating professionals in working with the World Game Test.
In 1999 Marion van de Coolwijk, special teacher and student of Ojemann, graduated and founded Institute Kind in Beeld (Child in focus). She continued the education in working with the World Game after Ojemann`s death in 2003 and wrote the book `Beelddenken, visueel leren en werken` (Visual-spatial thinking – learning and working) .
Also she developed unique visual learning techniques and a reading method according to the principles of visual-spatial thinking.
In 2010 Jaap Murre, professor of theoretical neuropsychology at the University of Amsterdam, did a study on visual and verbal memory in collaboration with Duke University: `Rise and Decline of Verbal and Visuospatial Memory`
This research clearly shows that the memory of humans from age four develops a preference for either the verbal or visual memory and that one of these systems is dominant for the rest of your life. Almost 40% of this dominance is inherited.
The research does not exclude that there is a group of people who are dominant in both learning systems.
In 2017 professor Evelyn Kroesbergen, professor of Learning Disabilities at the Radboud University in Nijmegen, conducted a two-year Dutch study to investigate how visual and verbal thinking relates to academic performance, in which the World Game was included:`Beelddenken – an investigation into visual and verbal thinking preferences and skills.` The results of this study will be published in national and international scientific journals.
In April 2018 a group of international professionals (from USA, Canada, Denmark and Greece) graduated in working with the World Game. There will be a collaboration in collecting data all to support a study in The Netherlands and Denmark to find the relationship between children`s scores on the World Game and other aspects of verbal and visual thinking, as well academic performance.
Nowadays the World Game is used by many special teachers, psychologists, high gifted specialists and child therapists as a non-verbal addition in guiding children.