Game Design at MMS
Why do we believe video-game design is an important piece of our curriculum? Games are already a major part of the lives of students; they are intrinsically engaging, provide motivation, and fun! These inherent characteristics lend themselves fantastically to educational purposes.
Game design exercises important skills and thought processes. Systems Thinking, designing and analyzing dynamic systems and how they work, is a large part of game design. Students learn that changing one small facet of an organized structure with interacting elements effects its overall functionality. This kind of thinking has direct application to many academic fields, including but not limited to mathematics, science, and technology. The Iterative Design Process also plays an important role. This is the process of designing something, testing it, then redesigning based on this testing. This allows students to test hypotheses and experiment. Allowing others to test your games, an essential facet of game design, employs User-Centered Design thinking, where students act as sociotechnical engineers by thinking about how others engage systems they’ve created and how/if they foster the competitive or cooperative goals they intended in their design. Making games for others also empowers students to teach each other by sharing their expertise. Students also learn Meta-Level Reflection skills in this process, wherein they must explain or defend their ideas and intentions, or cogitate on the effects of their solutions.
We begin our game design curriculum here at MMS with Gamestar Mechanic, a web-based game design platform and community. Gamestar allows students to engage in game design using intuitive drag-and-drop elements rather than by coding. Gamestar also provides a secure online community on which students can complete quests that teach game design theory, engage in competitions and challenges, post their original games, and review the games made by other members of the community. Using this tool provides opportunities to apply their digital citizenship and media literacy skills.
Using game design as a means to reinforce classroom curriculum is extremely effective. One project students are given is to design a game that teaches the player a specific lesson that the student learned about in the Montessori classroom. Designing such a game involves interdisciplinary thinking and the application of their knowledge to new contexts. Designing a game where the player plays as a water molecule moving through the water cycle, or a Turkish soldier moving through the various conquests of the Ottoman Empire’s history, allows students to synergize their understanding of a subject with their imagination for creating a challenging and fun game, resulting in a much deeper understanding and appreciation for the topic.
In building their games with the application of classroom content, designing the visuals for the game, and determining the mechanics of the game, students are able to build an enthusiasm for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics; otherwise known as STEAM. In keeping with this philosophy, our game design curriculum culminates every year with our annual participation in the National STEM Video Game Challenge.
The Educate to Innovate Campaign, President Obama’s initiative to promote a renewed focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education, spurred the creation of the National STEM Video Game Challenge in 2010.
Game design provides us with an entry point for a myriad of valuable technical and interdisciplinary vocations, with applications both inside and outside of the classroom. Not to mention, games are just plain fun! As a school that is committed to remaining at the forefront of educational technology, game design plays a crucial role is providing students with the richest opportunities to available to learn and grow.
1 of just 12 schools nationwide to win
President Obama's National STEM Video Game Challenge
MMS 7th Grader, Shireen Z., won the STEM Challenge with her physics video game called "Discover." The video game design challenge was designed to generate interest in science, technology, engineering and math, i.e. "STEM." Click here to learn more.
Shireen's game teaches players about concepts such as mass, friction, weight and gravity. The integration of friction into the game-play is a particularly unique element of her design. When the blocks that the player moves across are rough, the player cannot move as fast and is alerted that it is because of friction. This embedded learning demonstrates the higher order of learning and thinking that she put into the game.
As a result of winning President Obama's 2011 National STEM Video Game Challenge, MMS 8th Grader Shireen Z. was invited to Washington D.C. on February 7th to attend the White House Science Fair. Winning the STEM award and being invited to the White House were such honors for Shireen, and several local news outlets covered her story. Click here to read the press...
MMS '11 graduate Taylor B. also received press coverage for her game design. Her game, "Blood Sugar," gives players a fun way to learn about the obstacles that diabetics encounter and how to overcome them. Taylor's game has piqued the interest of various organization, as a tool to help them further their own diabetes education missions.
Click to Watch Taylor B. on CBS
Right now at MMS, fully 81 students are actively designing and creating new learning games for entry into the 2012 STEM challenge.