Educational games and project-based learning are a natural, delightful pairing – like peanut butter and jelly, or Wario and Waluigi.
Whether you’re looking to teach coding, robotics, or maybe even some future-facing 21st century skills, a project-based approach to learning has proven potency. As rich multimedia offerings, games are an ideal medium for this type of pedagogy, offering multiple avenues for engaging students’ passions and curiosity. Cutting edge project-based learning programs all around the world are weaving games into a broader scope and sequence that better prepares students for the kinds of multi-hyphenate work that increasingly define success in the workplace. Here’s how it’s going:
In keeping with the rise of digital distance learning, for the last two years Girls Make Games has taken Laila Shabir’s program exclusively online. Girls who join the online camp spend weeks together coding, team-building, and developing game designs, and by the end of the program, walk away with a completed game. Since its inception almost a decade ago, more than 6,500 girls have completed the program, with some of the games developed by participants finding a foothold in the market – for instance, one game by campers called What They Don’t Sea raised a cool $40,000 on Kickstarter. With an ultimate goal of bringing more women into STEM and particularly game-development oriented fields, these early wins point to a bright future as Girls Make Games prepares to appoint their first generation of “fellows” – that is, camp participants who have gone on to fully realized game dev careers. Learn more about the near-term and long-term benefits of this amazing program here.
MIT is no stranger to the impact of learning games – we’ve recommended their Handbook of Game-based Learning in the past for a comprehensive introduction to the latest research on learning and instruction with games. Recently, MIT put game-based and project-based learning theory into practice with their DynaMIT program, a completely free, week-long science program for economically disadvantaged middle-school students hosted on the MIT campus. The program focuses on inspiring students to be interested in STEM fields through fun and educational activities, challenges, and projects. Because of the current global pandemic, their most recent round was held exclusively online, which enabled out-of-state students to get in on the fun. Students were mailed their own personal kits and got to experience a variety of project-based learning content, including everything from coding their own games to making mini hydraulic lifts with popsicle sticks. Learn more here.
We talk a lot about how project-based and game-based learning can prepare students for their future careers, but here’s an example of how these skill sets can make an impact in the present! Students at Columbus Signature Academy Lincoln Elementary recently had the chance to work as real game designers for Exhibit Columbus, a program designed to celebrate the architecture, art, and design legacy of Columbus, Indiana. Centered around an exhibit built by Toronto-based design firm Lateral Office, a group of sixth graders was asked to design a series of game rules that would help audiences engage with the outdoor sculpture in a variety of meaningful ways. Click here to see what they invented!
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