Why Real-World Projects?

Real-World Projects

With the Zulama Real-World Projects course, students deepen skills they gained in other Zulama courses to design and build a playable game for a client, such as a small business, nonprofit, or their school district. Students learn how to manage client relationships while strengthening their core competencies, including collaboration, team building, problem solving, systems thinking, and creative solutions, and grit. Here are two shining examples of teachers who’ve had great success with the course:

Lynn Vanderzyl:

Lynn Vanderzyl, a Zulama teacher at Harmony High School, has taught Real-World Projects for the past two years. The first year, two of her students found a client within their own school–their AP Environmental Science Teacher. According to Lynn, “They made a 2D Jeopardy game in Unity for their AP Environmental Science class. The class used the game to review for their AP exam.” This time, she is starting out the school year by having her students design with GameMaker: Studio and Oculus Rift. Lynn wrote, I love watching everything the students have learned in the other Zulama courses come together!!!”

img_0919Chris Lucas:

Chris Lucas from West Allegheny shared that he is teaching his Game Production and Marketing Class as if it were a Real-World Projects class. His students are working on various game-design projects, including “an elementary game for a special education teacher” and “a DNA game for our high school science department.”


How could the Real World Projects course be used to spark design and entrepreneurship at your school?

Why Short Courses?

If you’re looking for a way to infuse game design, project-based learning and core competencies, such as collaboration, communication, and knowing how to work both independently and as a team into an English, Math, Science, Art, Social Studies, Tech or Zulama class that you are offering this year,  Zulama Short Courses might be the perfect solution. These courses are 12-20 hours long, so they are generally taught over the course of 3 weeks. We designed the course content for Middle School students, but it can be directed towards students of all ages depending on skill level.


More than a few wonderful educators in our community teach Zulama Short Courses, including Chris Lucas at West Allegheny. We asked him a few questions about his experience:

img_0904What did you enjoy most about teaching a Short Course?

I used the GameStar Mechanic Short Course as a supplement to my Game Design class. It worked really well. It gave me an opportunity to incorporate video game design principles along with the board games we were making. I liked how it was effective at giving the students a glimpse in video game design. They could put the principles we were learning in the course into practice.

How did your students react to the Short Courses?

The students loved the short course.  They really enjoyed seeing how the principles we learned in the Game Design class correlated into building a video game.  They also were able to submit their games to the STEM National Game Design Challenge.

img_0907What would you tell other teachers who are thinking of integrating Short Courses into their Middle School curriculum?

I think it would be great to incorporate into their Middle School curriculum. With each course being so short, the students would be able to get a glimpse into the different programs that will be offered at the high school.  It would also give the students experience with the software they will be using in high school, so it may allow for them to get into more advanced concepts in the high school courses.


Announcing New Short Courses!

Three new Short Courses are now ready and available for Zulama schools!

BB Sub RobotArcade Game Design

Students will use Scratch and a Hummingbird robotics kit to build their own arcade game! Learning the fundamentals of game design and coding, they will use LEDs, motors, and sensors to create a game that lights up and moves.

IMG_2968Science Game Design

Science is everywhere, from tiny bacteria to space travel! Your middle schoolers will team up with friends to build and play a game about a popular science topic of their choice!

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 12.18.20 PMGamestar Mechanic Game Design

Your students will learn to apply five elements of game design to build a game using Gamestar Mechanic. They will create a design document, prototype, and play their game with friends!

We Want Your Feedback!

For a limited time, we’re opening up the opportunity to be the first to use these new 15-18 hour courses in your classroom, whether your school has purchased the Short Courses or not!

In return, we’d like to hear your feedback about your experience with the new courses.

What we ask from you:

  • Complete a 5 minute click and submit survey at the conclusion of the course to let us know how your class enjoyed the course activities and project
  • Take a short followup call from Zulama to share your course experience with us
  • Your classroom meets the requirements (below) for the course you’d like to teach
  • You are willing to share samples images of your student’s work

Only with feedback from our valued teachers and administrators, can we continue to bring innovative and engaging new content for your students to enjoy! We couldn’t do what we do without you!

This offer is only available through the end of Summer 2016, so if you’d like to take advantage of this opportunity, talk to your administrators, and send us an email at sarah.avery@zulama.com for more information!

Classroom requirements for each course are listed below:

Arcade Game Design Requirements

  • Access to access Scratch 2 (free)
  • Hummingbird Duo Base Kits, can be purchased here.

Science Game Design Requirements

  • Must teach in a grade 6 through grade 9 classroom, preferably in a science classroom

Gamestar Mechanic Game Design Requirements



Making it Indie Style

By Sarah Avery, Zulama Community Advocate, Educator

Your students want to be indie developers? That’s great! It takes a lot of time and energy to become an indie developer; however, with the correct preparation, anyone can publish games!

What is an Indie Developer?

An indie developer is someone who develops and publishes games independently.  During this process an indie developer wears many hats, including marketer, accountant, networker, artist, developer, and more.  A common misconception is that an indie developer is only responsible for developing and designing a game.  However, once the game is completed, how will it reach an audience? How much will the game cost?  These are just two of the many questions posed to independent game developers.  Indie developers can spend months to years on one project, brainstorming playtesting, and iterating until it is publishable.  All the while the developer must network, research, and market their project in order to make money. Part game designer and business professional, an indie developer should be prepared for a wide range of responsibilities and hard work.

What are the Benefits of Being an Indie Developer?

With so much work involved in being an indie developer, it may seem to be easiest to work for a large company.  In some ways that is true; however, there are also benefits that accompany developing independent games including:

  • Freedom:  As an indie developer, you would have complete control over your game. You would be able to choose how the characters look, the artistic style of the game, how the story is developed and more.  You would have complete freedom to make the game however you feel is best.
  • Learning New Skills: With the wide variety of roles an indie developer takes on, it’s very difficult to not learn new skills.  As an indie developer, you would learn skills from marketing, to networking, to programming, and beyond. This is also a great way to meet established professionals who can mentor you through this learning process.
  • Passion: One of the main reasons indie game developers develop their independent games is their passion for game development.  It takes real love and commitment to spend months on one project before exposing it to the world for criticism and feedback.  Through this process you watch your game from an idea, to a prototype, to a published product. As an indie developer, you may not make a lot monetarily, but you will gain a lot emotionally and personally.

How can we Prepare Students to be Indie Developers?

As with all Zulama courses, the Game Production and Marketing course key skills needed for game development. However, in some ways it goes a step forward.  With a large focus on publication and marketing, students learn the skills needed to present their games to the world. As an indie developer, it’s not enough to just make a great game, you must also know how to share and sell it to an audience.  In this course, students do just that through a simulated economic market.

In addition, throughout the Zulama courses, students work in IDEA teams.  IDEA Teams, in conjunction with a focus on Project Based Learning, allow Zulama students to gain an in depth understanding into the design and publication process. From their in depth study of game design, Zulama students are well prepared to tackle a variety of career paths, from higher education to independently developing games.

To learn more about what it takes to be an indie game developer, check out the video below from Extra Credits:

How have you prepared your students to publish their own games? Comment below!

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Why Should Teens Care about the Bill of Rights?

Should schools be allowed to drug test students? How much private information should schools know, for instance if student’s parents are incarcerated? The answers to these questions are not as clear-cut as they might seem at first glance.

This video gives a great peek into Zulama’s Bill of Rights Course.

The Bill of Rights
by: bvaillancourt