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R.I. Baker Middle School makes education into a school-wide competition

Posted on April 20, 2023 by Sunny South News

By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News

R.I. Baker Middle School is “gamifying” education.

The learning game, titled Rising Sun, Bending Reed is an eight week project which incorporates curriculum content from social studies and language arts in a game format.

Then a scaled up game-board is situated in the main foyer of the middle school. Teachers Michael Willems and Jeff Smith are taking on the project for a second year.

This year, students will study elements of historical Japan and will earn points based on their completion of assignments with the goal of “winning” the game. Using their knowledge of Japanese history, student’s main objective is to establish a plan, complete tasks, gather resources, and build an “army” in order to withstand the various challenges and conditions throughout Japan’s history.

After a wildly successful pilot, staff applauded the project, and organizing teachers Willems and Smith for the overall positive impact on student engagement. A statement from Palliser School Division noted, “School staff were blown away by how engaged the students were last year and the quality of work they turned in for the project.”

This game is a form of Project Based Learning, a pedagogy which encourages students to take ownership of their learning. “It’s about learning how to learn – finding appropriate resources, deciding what’s important, playing to your strengths anddeveloping your weaknesses. It allows room to fail, while still expecting effort and resiliency,” reads the official game rulebook. Willems said, “it puts the power in the student’s hands because now it’s not just about filling out worksheets. It’s about gaining levels, growing their skills, and proving they have learned something. Rather than teachers just trying to push learning on the kids, the kids are showing their learning to the teacher.”

Much like an actual board game, Rising Sun, Bending Reed marries various game concepts with educational components. The visual opening ceremony for the game kicked off on April 17 and will run until the end of the school year.

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