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!
What’s better than kids making video games? Kids making opportunities for other kids to make video games!
You may have read earlier that this year we’ve partnered with Global Kids’ Online Leadership Program. The students at OLP are creating two challenges in Gamestar Mechanic as part of our series of Impact Challenges sponsored by the AMD Foundation. Well, the first challenge, about ending war, has been up and running since March, and closed with more than 700 entries! Recently, Global Kids spoke about their challenges at the 2012 Annual Youth Conference. Below is a video of some OLP kids explaining their projects:
We are so proud to be part of this project. Youth creating contests for other youth in the game design for impact space is the kind of activity that will spur youth participation, leadership, and creativity. Not to mention, bring us a step closer to making the world a better place.
We’ll continue to work with Global Kids on releasing their second challenge in Gamestar, and judging both of the contests.
We are happy to be linking up with Global Kids’ Online Leadership Program (OLP) this year. Global Kids is an awesome organization here in NYC that uses digital media to promote global awareness and youth civic engagement. From their website: “OLP integrates a youth development approach and international and public policy issues into youth media programs that build digital literacy, foster substantive online dialogues, develop resources for educators, and promote civic participation.” Basically, they are pretty fantastic.
So this school year, OLP is running it’s fifth season of high school internship program called Playing 4 Keeps (P4K). This time, among other activities, the P4K kids will design social impact games using Gamestar Mechanic and also learn a bunch about what happens behind the scenes of making games.
P4K keeps a blog detailing what they are working on each week with Gamestar Mechanic and other game design activities. Their most recent post includes reflection from the high schoolers themselves. Some of my favorite quotes from the kids include:
“Playing for Keeps has revolutionized the way I think about gaming as a whole… No longer will a game just be a game, but a transformed piece, an artistic creation, always with a purpose and always with a meaning.”
“Joining this program, I saw how games might have been built/made with various values in mind, and how it is not exactly due to a designer, but the perspective of a player that is what shapes it.”
“It’s fun and educational. IT’S FUNJACATIONAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!”