Linda Stec, director of the Starrett Children’s Center in Waldo County, Maine, used to not know a Pokemon from a Pikachu. That’s changed.

Many teachers have banned the cards due to the distractions the cards engendered as well as the arguments they cause during play and trades. Instead, Linda decided to join the gang and, in the process, gently teach some lessons about the consumer nature of the hobby the kids had joined.

Typically, Pokémon players collect cards based on numbers, with higher point values making for more valuable cards. To make it interesting for herself and to twist the out-of-the-box rules, Stec only traded for cards with pictures that she found attractive.

The children didn’t know what to make of her trading style but they didn’t reject it either. She especially liked birds: Murcrow, Togekiss, Swablu … When children wanted one of her high-point-value cards, they learned, they could often trade it for a bird.

She also agreed to trade for cards that her students drew themselves. “One of the best preparations for learning to write,” she said, “is learning to draw.”

The authority that younger generations automatically give to things that come from the store is what Stec hopes to deflate when she changes the rules of the game. The vast amount of Pokémon merchandise available on the market suggests the smart aspects of the trading card game may be incidental to the campaign to sell more Pokémon.

“They say, ‘Buy the products! See the movies!’ And I say, ‘No, you don’t have to do all those things. You can trade, and you can make your own.’”