Rafa' Rafa'

Cultural Diversity Game for Middle School Students.

What is Rafa’ Rafa’?

Rafa’ Rafa’ is a real time, face to face, non-computer based, cross cultural simulation for students in the fifth through eighth grade. It takes a minimum of one and one-half hours to run and accommodates 12 to 40 participants. All materials to run the simulation are included in the reusable kit.

What are the unique features of Rafa’ Rafa’?

In most studies of other cultures, nations or groups, the emphasis is on the specific rituals, norms and taboos of the group under study. For example, if one is studying the Japanese Culture, one might explain how people greet by bowing to one another and what the bowing signifies. Rafa’ Rafa’ takes a different approach. Instead of talking about the specific differences in cultures and groups, it focuses on the feelings, attitudes and reactions generated whenever one experiences another culture of any kind. We do not suggest that this is an either/or situation. We suggest that both approaches are important. Many teachers find it valuable to introduce their students to the idea of culture using Rafa’ Rafa’ and then study specific cultures.

Rafa' Rafa' is a reusable kit which includes everything needed to run the simulation for up to 40 participants at one time.

Rafa' Rafa' is a simplified version of BaFa' BaFa' and therefore better suited for younger students. Please contact us with any questions you may have.

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What are the goals of Rafa’Rafa’?

With Rafa’ Rafa’, the emphasis is on the process of interacting with another culture. Specifically, it emphasizes the importance of listening, of asking questions, of observing with an open mind, and of understanding the likely mistakes one will make if one makes assumptions and evaluates the other person’s behavior based on values, assumptions and practices of one’s own culture. All of this serves to build awareness of how cultural differences can profoundly impact the way people live, think and behave. More specifically, it is used:

1. To illustrate the difficulties and problems one may encounter when interacting with persons who are different. Including:

a. The tendency to disparage anything another person or group does which we don’t understand. This realization gives the teacher an opportunity to help students examine their own biases.

b. The tendency of some people to rush into a new situation without observing or trying to figure what the values and attitudes of the people are and, on the other hand, the tendency of others to never try to learn by interacting.

c. The tendency to rely on stereotypes to explain behavior we don’t understand and how these stereotypes are formed and can lead to misunderstanding.

2. To introduce the importance of speaking in descriptive rather than evaluative terms when talking about other individuals or groups.

3. To serve as a beginning point for studying certain characteristics, values and qualities in different cultures.


a. the importance of understanding social distance in understanding other cultures.

b. the way one’s language affects one’s thoughts.

c. the way attitudes towards kin vary from culture to culture.

d. the way different cultures treat in-group and out-group members.

e. the different attitudes toward work and play and how such attitudes affect the culture and one’s personal outlook.

4. To point out the importance, value and effectiveness of non-verbal communication.

5. To help students identify ways of behaving that make everyone feel as though they belong.

Where does it fit in the curriculum?

Rafa’ Rafa’ can be used in any unit or course concerned with multi-cultural education, how to get along with others, how to resolve conflicts, or to prepare for foreign language training. It is appropriate for bright 5th graders, 6th graders, and 7th graders. Eighth graders should use BaFa’ BaFa’ if they are more mature and Rafa’ Rafa’ if they are less mature.

What happens in Rafa’ Rafa’?

The participating pupils are divided to two groups. Each group is instructed in a new and different way of living. One group is called the Alpha Culture, the other group the Beta Culture.

The people in the Alpha Culture are fun loving, superstitious and honor their elders. People in the Beta Culture are hard working, business like, foreign speaking, and do not like to be close to one another. Once the members of each group have learned the rules of their new culture, observers are exchanged. Observers “travel” to the other culture and try to learn about it by listening and watching.

The visitor is generally bewildered and confused by the strangeness of the foreign culture. Bewilderment often turns to intolerance once the visitor returns home. “They’re strange, real strange, that’s all I can say. They’re making funny sounds and weird gestures. Just be careful when you go over there.” visitors report.

The interest and involvement reaches a climax in the discussion after the simulation rather than during the simulation itself. It is during the discussion that the mysteries of each of the cultures are unraveled and the participants compare perceptions of one another’s culture. As they discuss the experience, they come to understand that there were reasons behind the behavior they observed. With this realization, their attitudes change from one of hostility to understanding. The discussion then moves from the simulated experience to examining attitudes towards other groups in the real world.

How long does it take?

It can be played in one 50-minute period and discussed the next. It is best, however, to allow one and one-half hours for playing the simulation and a half hour minimum for discussion.

How many participants does Rafa’ Rafa’ accommodate?

There are enough reusable materials to accommodate up to 40 participants at a time. Twenty-four to 35 is the ideal number of participants. The lowest limit at which the simulation can successfully be played is 12 people (6 persons in each culture). The maximum number is less fixed, but it would probably become unmanageable when the number gets larger than 40.

How much preparation time is required?

Approximately thirty to forty minutes the first time through. Five to ten minutes on subsequent runs.

Are any consumable forms required?

Everything is included in the kit with the exception of two audio cd players and a white board or newsprint pad. It is necessary to have two spaces, one for the introduction and the Alpha culture and another space for the Beta culture. The Beta culture space could be a hallway or a breakout room.

How does Rafa’ Rafa’ differ from BaFa’  BaFa’?

Rafa’ Rafa’ is a simplified version of BaFa’ BaFa’ and therefore better suited for younger students. Rafa’ Rafa’ differs in three main ways:

1. In BaFa’ BaFa’, the Alpha culture is patriarchal. Thus the women are protected by the men, a condition that exists in a large portion of the world and one of the most difficult things for adults going to another culture to adapt to. Rules related to gender are not included in the Rafa’ Rafa’ simulation.

2. In Rafa’ Rafa’, the trading cards have animals on them. In BaFa’ BaFa’ they have coded numbers. The animals make the trading easier.

3. In Rafa’ Rafa’, the beta trading language is made up of animal sounds. In BaFa’ BaFa’, Betans use their first and last initial as part of their trading language.

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