Sometimes the hardest part about teaching game design workshops is simply getting the participants to focus. When kids (or adults!) get started designing games, it’s often tricky to pull their attention back to the group for a discussion, reflection session, or to move on to the next activity. Sometimes it’s also hard to get participants motivated to work with people they don’t know, or on a project that doesn’t immediately seem intriguing. Well, I think we found the solution to those issues: have kids teach kids.
We are in the middle of a workshop series around the National STEM Video Game Challenge. This past weekend I attended a workshop at the American Museum of Natural History here in NYC. While I’m usually the one leading these workshops, this time the workshop series is being lead by a group of awesome high schoolers from Global Kids. I worked with the Global Kids before, so I knew they were great, but I hadn’t seen them in the role of teacher. Our participants this past weekend were mostly middle and elementary school kids and a few parents. Watching the kids respond to their high school-aged teachers was really inspiring; they were curious, engaged and ready to participate. There’s something about kids learning from other kids who are just a few years older that makes the participants feel connected to the content – they actually see in front of them the opportunity for themselves to grow into game design experts. They know it’s possible for kids to be awesome game designers and digital leaders because there is proof right there in their teachers.
Another key piece of the puzzle were the few scattered parents in the workshop. These parents were not pro gamers and so had to defer to the Global Kids for expert advice. Watching adults be the students, and the students be the teachers was empowering for all parties. Kids saw they could teach their parents, parents saw potential for their kids to be youth leaders, and youth leaders validated their expertise by successfully engaging and teaching both parents and kids.
Did I mention this was a six hour workshop? Global Kids kept the energy high, the kids learning, and the atmosphere controlled the entire time. Hats off to kids teaching kids!