Daydreams come in a variety of forms. As a kid, one of my most consistent dreams was that somehow—somewhere—there could be a school whose curriculum was based entirely on video games.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that there is not one but actually two schools in the United States offering such a curriculum this year. I may not be a sixth to ninth grader, but I’m pretty excited about what these two schools have to offer. With their emphasis on technology, hands-on learning, and collaborative play, these schools are literally redefining the way we learn in the 21st century.
Check out profiles of both ultra-modern institutions below.
QUEST TO LEARN
Quest to Learn was first opened in Manhattan in 2009 as the product of a joint collaboration between the Institute of Play and the New York City Department of Education. The school has also received generous grants from the MacArthur Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Its sister school, Chicago Quest, opened in fall 2011. Both schools took years to plan, and their curricula are based on the extensive pedagogical research of both scientists and educators.
The curriculum at Quest to Learn emphasizes inquiry-based learning, collaboration, interdisciplinarity, and real-world problem solving. The students play games as well as design them, but they also work on other multimedia projects, such as videos and blogs. Additionally, students have option of learning up to five different languages, including Spanish, French, Mandarin, Latin, and German. For older students, the school offers internships and college prep, including the ability to earn college credits
While there are eventual plans to make Quest to Learn a 6th through 12th grade school, they currently serve students in grades 6 through 9. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about the school, the Quest to Learn website has curriculum samples, summer assignments, a media kit, and a full break-down of the school’s learning practices and objectives. There’s also a weekly newsletter to keep parents and members of the community updated on their progress.
As part of their media package, Quest to Learn has released a series of short films on their curriculum and teaching methods. Check out the video below for more information about their program.
THE PLAYMAKER SCHOOL
The second gaming-based institution is the PlayMaker School, which opened this September in Los Angeles, California. Developed by GameDesk, it boasts an innovative curriculum designed for sixth graders to achieve “21st century success.” The school is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and AT&T, and currently has an enrollment of 60 students.
At PlayMaker, students will both build and play games, but the school’s curriculum runs much deeper. According to their website, the curriculum is based on four different “blocks of learning,” including learning through play, learning through making, learning through discovery, and learning through internet-driven design.
PlayMaker is based on the premise that each individual student will follow his or her own path to success, and the curriculum includes several “routes” which suit different learning needs. Each student is given an interactive “Adventure Map” which allows them to chart their progress through the educational material. Students can use the map for self-assessment, as well as to visualize the connections between the different course modules.
Sounds pretty intense, right? That’s probably because the PlayMaker curriculum is based on extensive research by GameDesk. The course modules are supplemented by tons of other media and software produced by the company, including Math Maker, a project which uses game design as a way of teaching mathematics.
At the heart of the PlayMaker curriculum is the belief that technology and games are an exciting way to engage students in learning. Check out the video below for more on their teaching philosophy.