Video game school takes unique view on learning

November 26, 2009 3:24:58 PM PST
Out with the textbooks and in with the tools most familiar to young students - computers and video games. A new school in Gramercy Park has a unique twist on learning.

Games are important at the new public school called Quest to Learn.

"The entire curriculum is set up like a game," principal Elisa Aragon said. "It's a game-like curriculum where students are given a quest, just like in a game."

Seventy-three sixth graders are the first students. It eventually will become a sixth through twelfth grade school.

"We do a ton of work and it's all really fun," student Kees Johnson said. "It's not like any other kind of school. It's totally new."

Many, if not most parents are concerned that their children spend too much time playing video games. This school is based on the idea that video games and the technology behind them can be used as teaching tools.

A computer program challenges students to create their own video games, which are then shared with other students.

"So they rate the games, they play them for each other, they give feedback," Aragon said.

"It's actually really fun and I really enjoy it," student Aviv Porath said. "I think every other kid does, too."

Students are also guided through high-tech projects that encourage team work and problem solving.

In one geography exercise, the teacher holds up a flash card indicating a land form. The students then use clay to make the shape of the land form.

"As kids are being able to play these games and use things in these ways, it's...really a powerful experience for them," curriculum director Rebecca Rufo-Tepper said.

The school is a collaboration between New Visions and the Gamelab Institute of Play.

"We don't use textbooks and stuff like that," student Brianna Tsewall said. "We use the computer to help us with our learning."