Creating a WILD Experience

The Strohm girls have a knack for creating games and for being in the wild – hence the premise of their company’s games and name of Two Sisters in the Wild.

Athia is a 17-year-old 11th grader and Maia is a 13-year-old seventh grader, both in the Clarion-Limestone Area School District.

Their first game called WILD: North East – North America teaches students about ecosystems and the wildlife that exists in those ecosystems. The goal in the WILD series is to build an ecosystem by matching symbols that connect the ecosystem. You begin with the ecosystem and end with an apex predator that is on top of the food chain. You win when you have all 10 card types in your ecosystem.

“We started creating the game (WILD) because we wanted to see if we could do it and challenge ourselves. We had made little games before that and loved doing it so, when dad was on board, we decided to take it to the next level,” said Athia Strohm.

Originally just a tabletop game, Athia and Maia received a $7,500 grant to convert the game into a mobile app which they offer for free through Google Play, and for .99 through Amazon Kindle.

The driving force to the WILD game was the thing they all had in common – nature.

“Once our creative juices were flowing we started to design. We took as much criticism as possible to improve the game. Then with that, we built on the idea of the original cards and made Edge,” said Athia Strohm.

EDGE has become their most popular game to date.

EDGE is described as a competitive trading card game that builds ecosystems and food webs with two-four players. Players spend 10 rounds building their ecosystems. At the end of the rounds, each player adds up the points in their ecosystem and the player with the highest points wins.

“It’s a fun way for people to learn about the environment by playing a game,” said Athia Strohm.

“People have already requested a solitaire version of it, but we are not sure how to do that yet,” added Maia Strohm.

Put to educational use

So far, the card games are helping teach students in 100 educational hubs such as schools, libraries and environmental centers and is sold by area merchants and online.

The accolades and grants they’ve received have given their games clout. In 2015 they won first place during the Harrisburgh University of Science of Technology’s Indie Tabletop Award. They also received the Mensa Mind Games ® Competitor status after competing in this the 2015 Mensa Mind Games® competition.

In addition to the games teaching other students, the Strohm girls have learned quite a bit by producing the game and creating a company. Game production included writing and creating the cards as well as taking pictures of wildlife in zoos, parks and other natural habitats for the card pictures. Followed up with play testing and refining the rules to make the game more fun.

“Dad took us to the Small Business Development Center where Athia and I learned about companies and how they work. We met some people who helped us learn about it,” said Maia Strohm.

The girls also have learned about marketing their game. Part of their marketing has included a blog called “Two Sisters in the Wild” found at www.twosistersinthewild.com. They are also learning how to use social media to communicate with fans and game enthusiasts. Their adventures are posted on Facebook at www.facebook.com/twosistersinthewild.

Close encounters in the wild

While they’ve been creating these games, the girls have had the chance to meet the experts in the wildlife field.

“We have met many wildlife industry folks. Karen Cleveland of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources spent time with us when we visited Michigan and she even had a lunch for us with a bunch of wildlife people there.” said Maia Strohm.

These introductions have led to some close encounters of the wild kind. Most recently the girls traveled to Michigan where they went to lunch with some of Michigan’s wildlife experts and got to see a peregrine falcon nesting site. These encounters often end up as pictures on the cards, but the girls’ parents, Jason and Janine, hope these memories last the girls a lifetime.

“We take the girls to places so they can take photos of animals and plants they don’t already have. We use these opportunities to explore wildlife parks, zoos, education centers, aquariums, and state and national parks,” said Janine Strohm, the girls’ mother.

The sale of the card game has been put to good use with the girls responsibly divvying up the money between charities, college funds and travel expenses to research more cards.

“It gives us some money every month, but it also gives us chances to communicate with wildlife experts since we use some of the money to travel and see them,” Maia Strohm said.

Because nature is everywhere, the Strohm sisters are currently working on starter decks for all 58 National Parks.

Juli Adams and Renee Vale from Four Winds Trading have been working with the Strohms to add their games to the National Park Visitor’s Centers. When Athia and Maia finish new National Park Starter Decks, Four Winds Trading sells them to their National Park customers.

“Yellowstone National Park is selling the game in nine of their locations this summer, thanks to Juli and Renee at Four Winds Trading,” said Jason Strohm. “Grand Canyon has sold the most so far.”

Yellowstone’s support gives more people the chance to have fun while learning — a philosophy that is at the heart of all of the games the girls have created.

The phrase on the back of the original WILD card game was “The Strohm sisters, Athia and Maia, think learning about nature should be as fun as playing a game.”

This article in a similar form was published in the Clarion News in 2015. Special thanks to the Clarion News and Amy Wozniak for taking the time to capture the girls’ story. – Jason Strohm