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A place where imagination is celebrated, dreams are realized, and play is paramount. No…it’s not an amusement park. It’s Playmaker, the new school model developed by GameDesk and supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help usher education into the 21st century and transform the way society views learning.
The PlayMaker model revolves around a student’s ability to learn through playing, making, discovery and inquiry, inviting students into a world of ancient inventions, roller coaster design, flight simulation, historical time travel, and a dynamic library of educational apps and games. Founded upon the principle that kids should be empowered to develop meaningful relationships with subject disciplines through creative and playful experiences, PlayMaker’s curriculum aligns with state and national standards in education and assessment, while pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the classroom.
Traditional subjects, grade levels, and classroom style spaces have been transformed to accommodate hands-on, immersive, and play-oriented experiences resulting in tangible products and transferable knowledge.
In every PlayMaker activity, four main educational thrusts transpire. These include:
1. Learning through play: At PlayMaker, kids interact in a challenge-driven, playful environment, while role playing and developing systems knowledge.
2. Learning through making: Students regularly engage in hands-on building, architecting, deconstructing and rebuilding and tinkering to understand how systems and ecologies work, and to learn how to apply the knowledge they gain in real ways.
3. Learning through discovery and inquiry: Kids are pulled into into different realms, where learn they how to investigate and create meaning around concepts.
4. Learning through Interest-driven curriculum: The PlayMaker School encourages students to pursue learning through their own interests. Helping kids discover their unique talents and find ways to put them in action is a PlayMaker specialty.
An Open Source School
A strong advocate of transparency, PlayMaker supports an open-source and open-culture environment whereby a community of national teachers, parents, and administrators can see and learn from what is practiced in the school. Innovation leaks oil and the new school hopes the community will learn as much from its mistakes as its success. As part of this commitment to sharing its practices, PlayMaker will post weekly images and video of highlights of school activities to the public via the PlayMaker school site, Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Adventure Map and Modular Interactive Curriculum
To guide and visualize their interest-driven pathways, PlayMaker students are presented with their very own Adventure Map–an interactive, personalized curriculum for each student to chart their learning pathway. The Adventure Map helps kids navigate their educational rites of passage, moving from creative spaces that feature science graffiti, historical time travel, ecology board games, and a light convection sandbox.
Each individualized map showcases the sequence of signature PlayMaker modules, which are standards-aligned, thematic curriculum units that allow students to learn through embodied learning, game-play, research, designing and making, media production, and role-play activities completed during the school year. Once students have completed a module, they’re able to select and learn from more pieces of curricula. By following their Adventure Maps, the students are able to explicitly see and comprehend connections between each completed module. At the end of the school year, students will have a understanding of where they have been, what choices they made in deciding which modules to complete, and what competencies and standards they have covered. Simply put, students are able to trace where they started and where their interests take them.
Beyond a student scheduler, the Adventure Map also acts as a self-assessment tool for students to track their learning and decision making, as well as an instrument for teachers and parents to see which standards and competencies students have covered. Serving as a guide for teachers to trace their students’ progress, the map provides a platform for teachers to suggest certain modules for the student to complete if there a gap in knowledge is evident.
Modular Units in Detail
PlayMaker’s curriculum modules present students with questions that interest them, and provide an immediate interactive context for solving novel problems, while acquiring life and a career skills. For example, in a module called Roller Coaster Creator, students are asked to build a roller coaster virtually in a digital sandbox game then physically with a Spacerail kit before they’re tasked with verbalizing physics concepts associated with kinetic and potential energy. Each module is congruent with state and national standards and to competencies GameDesk has deemed crucial, such as systems thinking and problem solving.
Character Sheets & Holistic Assessment
In addition to cultivating fresh learning environments and vehicles for facilitating engagement, PlayMaker is architecting new terrain for assessment, as the curriculum develops and considers a formative assessment and visualization tool, call the character sheet. On the day they start school, PlayMaker students receive personalized character sheets, which use to keep track of the knowledge and skills they gain on a daily basis on measures that we have deemed as necessary skills for 21st century learning, such as systems thinking, problem solving and social-emotional learning. Designed to serve as life-reflective tools, these sheets display each student’s development communication skills, critical thinking, design and engineering, collaborative ability, and other essential 21st century characteristics. Similar to the Adventure Map, character sheets provide students with formative feedback, thereby encouraging students to further develop their self-regulated learning skills. These character sheets persist throughout the student’s progress, providing a constantly evolving visual tool with which the student can map his or her development.