Play as a Gamechanger for Student Success
No one will deny that middle schoolers today spend a lot of time on screens and devices. However, when given the opportunity students love to play a good old-fashioned game. Though really there is nothing “old-fashioned” about the culture of gaming at Arthur Morgan School. School culture and the student contract keep boarding students from playing games online or via consoles. But students still engage in games in more hands-on ways.
Board Games are Far from Boring
Due to both staff and student interest, there is a diverse and unique culture around gaming at AMS. Card games, board games, and any other kind of game you can think of, are constantly being played. Especially popular are cooperative games. Creative board games like Pandemic, Forbidden Island, Mysterium, and Arkham Horror require players to work together. This cooperative element puts students on the same team and helps them learn problem-solving skills. Students learn accountability and a greater understanding of how to make group-decisions. Cooperative gaming forces players to think out loud and explain their reasoning. Studies show that young people learn better through articulating their thought process aloud.
Other popular games include Magic: The Gathering. This deck-building experience encourages ingenuity and dedication. Students often go through multiple renditions of decks, trying to create the most powerful combination of cards. Staff and houseparent, Izzy Miller, says that Magic helps students to be “creatively and strategically flexible.” When a student builds a deck it inspires them to “create a puzzle that fits both their aesthetic desires and allows them to tell a story.”
This year the December unit features a board game elective on HeroQuest. HeroQuest is a game so dangerous that students’ characters rarely survive, let alone win. But that doesn’t keep them from playing. Current students say of the game “fun,” and “you absolutely have to work with other students.” Emphasis on the absolutely have to. The goal of the class is to engage students in a classic adventurer-style game. Except the twist is that it “requires intense teamwork,” says staff and teacher Jenifer Sterling. Jenifer adds that “It’s worth noting middle schoolers are especially bad at this. Especially at first. But over time they realize that if they don’t want to die they have to figure it out together.”
All School Games
All school games are a blast too! One epic and sneaky game AMS plays annually is “Bring it Back Alive.” It’s basically a more advanced, nocturnal rendition of Capture the Flag. Bring it Back Alive splits staff and students into two teams. Each team receives a list of items to collect scattered all across campus. Lists often include picnic tables, rugs, broken trucks, footbridges, specific hats and more. Staff and students then work together to find the objects without being tagged (or scared) by the other team’s players. Bring it Back Alive gets the whole school excited to run around. It also teaches students to find fun in their everyday surroundings.
Supplementing classes and free time with creative games gets students excited to learn. When we are able to engage students in cooperative and exciting ways, learning becomes an experience– not a chore. Getting students into games is just one part of this for Arthur Morgan School, but it’s a part we take seriously. Well, not too seriously.
by Annie Livingston