Game Night!

I made the mistake of blinking, and now first quarter has already passed! The last week has been a scramble of launching first quarter projects to the community, reflecting on our first quarter experiences, and conducting first quarter grade-persuasion meetings with individual students. Second quarter has begun, but the whirlwind of first quarter dust has not yet settled.

I want to take a moment to reflect on the successes of last Tuesday evening, our very first Game Night event. About ten weeks ago, students were challenged with the following driving question: How can I design a game that depicts a struggle in our nation? They spent the following weeks asking questions, conducting research, organizing ideas, designing layouts, editing instructions, and preparing for a live audience.

One might hear the driving question and wonder how in the world game design could be connected to current events and more importantly, how any learning deeper than surface-level learning might be attained. I have to admit, I had my doubts early in the quarter. It was one of many leaps of faith I have taken in the past three years. I have said it before, and I will say it again – raise the bar, and they will rise to it!

A few weeks into the school year, one of our eighth grade students shared the news that his family was moving to Illinois – and soon. He assured us, though, that he would remain in contact with his group and would be here for Game Night. Of course, being that he was no longer a student in our class or even in our state, this was not an expectation. In the remaining weeks of the quarter, however, he Skyped with his group during 5th hour nearly every day, and come Game Day, he was here. If that doesn’t scream student engagement, empowerment, and excitement, I don’t know what does.

During each of our launch events, where student learning is put on display and presented to families and community members, I always have a moment where I look around and just pause. The pride is overwhelming, and suddenly all of the chaos, confusion, exhaustion, and panic students deal with on the days leading up to the launch is totally worth it.

The response from our audience members was very positive. Many talked about the depth of learning they were excited to see taking place and the creativity shown in the game development. Others spoke to how authentic the feedback process was for students to be able to witness whether or not their game actually worked, made sense to its audience, and was enjoyable to others.

About thirty minutes into the evening, one of our students jumped up and excitedly said to Andy and me, “I’ve never seen so many adults playing games in my life!” A few things come to mind when I think about that. First, we could all use more games in our lives. Second, it’s so important for families to spend quality time together – playing, laughing, and learning from one another. And finally, who says learning can’t be fun?


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