Community-Based Learning

Through Real World Projects, the Zulama capstone internship course, students work as a design team to meet client expectations when designing a game for business, a nonprofit, or their school district. Take a look at how valued an internship experience can be for the community, the school, but most of all for the student.

The Holographic Quality Of STEAM

dmarinelliGuest Post by Don Marinelli, Ph.D, Co-founder of Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center

Have you ever equated “STEAM” with a “hologram”? It takes a creative thinker like Dr Marinelli to paint this [3D] picture!

A hologram is a photographic recording of a light field, created with a laser rather than a lens, and is used to display a fully three-dimensional image of the holographed subject.

In a holograph, the image is captured and contained within every piece of the holographic plate. If you cut a hologram into a hundred parts, you might think that each individual part will show a separate area of the image, but that’s not the case. With holograms, each of the smaller parts still contains a reflection of the complete, whole, 3-dimensional image.

That’s precisely the case with STEAM education. Each distinctive element of STEAM contains all the other elements. Think about your favorite animated movie, say, FROZEN. That movie, a marvel of animation, a beautiful example of bringing imaginary characters to life and endowing them with human attributes, is impossible to create without science, technology, engineering, and math, all in the service of the intrinsic “art” of the movie.

The science involves anatomy, light, timing, color, physiognomy; the math is manifest in proportion, object relationships, depth perception, cause-and-effect, and other fundamental Newtonian laws. The technology exists in the form of the computers, cameras and lighting used to make and store the movie digits or cells, while the engineering is the projection, audio, 3D and 4D systems, and the actual cinema space where we watch the movie.

We cannot divorce any one of these elements from the experiential whole without detrimental effect.

And yet, we do so in education. Every day. How strange.

STEAM is all around us. A building that is functional and yet impresses us by its design is the result of STEAM. Math is the engineering foundation for the building’s tensile strength, weight bearing stresses, and ability to withstand forces of nature. The building houses myriad technologies both digital (Internet, sensors, monitors), as well as analog (plumbing, conduits, electrical). And, it all comes together as an architectural marvel, an artistic sculpture in the cityscape.

STEAM is a technical way of saying – and promoting – what used to be called “Whole Brain Thinking.” It is the natural bridging of left-brain organizational, systematic thought with right-brain non-linearity and creativity. And, what is truly remarkable is that this form of thinking is an ontological reality for all children. It is manifest in a child’s curiosity and desire to make meaning.

Society has somehow devised the means of educating it out of children.

It is time for that to stop.


Join us for our next live Remake Learning Hangout on March 29th at 2:30 PM EST, STEAM: Bringing the Arts to STEM. We will continue this discussion by providing strategies to bring STEAM education to a classroom near you!


The Growing Impact of Game Design Programs


Ed Games Expo, held at 1776, Washington, D.C., December 9, 2015

Bev Vaillancourt, M.Ed.

Educator, Editorial Director for Zulama

The Higher Education Video Game Alliance (HEVGA) is a “professional organization of video game scholars and programs at universities across the county and internationally.” Attending the 2015 HEVGA mid-December conference at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., was inspiring and enlightening. It simply was delightful being part of an environment inclusive of incredibly bright individuals who not only believe in the value of game design, but work hard to foster growth of game design programs and game-based learning for all ages.

According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), today there are fully 496 post secondary game design programs found in colleges and universities across the county, including Hawaii and Alaska. Students graduating from these programs have high paying jobs waiting for them as they navigate over 1,640 game design companies just in the United States.

With consumers in the United States spending upwards of $23B on the game design industry, opportunities abound for qualified and talented game designers and programmers. As one game design company executive told me at the Ed Games Expo, “Send us your students. We start at $65K per year.” Zulama is proud of its contribution in addressing the ever-expanding need within the game design industry for talented and highly skilled individuals who understand the design process and know how to work within a design team environment.


Texas A & M University presenting a student-designed art history game at the HEVGA conference, December 10, 2015.

As I listened to professors at the HEVGA conference share their game design curriculums and student projects found at their universities and colleges, I felt more and more proud to be part of all that Zulama does to bring those same experiences to students in grades 6 – 12. “Work in design teams to create a game.” – our Zulama students do that. “Develop content driven games.” – Zulama students do that. “Work in Unity” – Yes. “Have internship opportunities.” – That, too! Zulama offers a four-year game design, programming, and 3D modeling standards-based curriculum to high school students, opening a wide horizon of college and career opportunities. As Zulama’s founder and CEO, Nikki Navta’s vision of creating a game design curriculum for high school students just a handful of years ago truly was visionary, and today a vibrant reality.

“It’s not the facts that matter, it’s the connections between the facts that matter.” —Dave Rejeski, Wilson Center, Washington, D.C.

It is a joy for me to meet Zulama students in their classrooms and hear their enthusiasm for learning and for game design. It is refreshing to see so many engaged school administrators and teachers dedicated to remaking learning for their students, with an eye to the future rather than being tethered to tried and failed educational systems of the past.

The collaborative social space of game design is seen in every Zulama classroom, and certainly powered every conversation at the 2015 HEVGA conference. To think analytically, collaboratively, and creatively builds agency for critical thinking and innovation. This is game design at its core. From computer science programs for young children to the Zulama Entertainment Technology Curriculum through the myriad of higher education game design program offerings, the future is bright and the horizons wide for future game designers and the limitless and collective ability to “connect the facts” they bring to the global learning network.

Reinventing Learning

by Sarah Avery, Zulama Community Advocate

Project based learning, collaboration, 21st century learning; all great words and phrases, but how do they actually work in our classrooms? Below you’ll find different educational activities using all these great phrases that can be used in any classroom to jumpstart student learning and grow skills that will stay with your students throughout their lives! 

Classroom Blogs: Looking for ways to address the writing standards in a real-world way? Start a classroom blog! This is a great way to increase classroom communication outside of the four walls of your room. As the teacher, you can use the blog to spread information to parents and spearhead student discussions that can be continued during the school day. Your students will get real world experience writing and publishing their own articles while developing their opinions in an engaging and mature way that will prepare them for a future job or college!

Check out Mike Wallagher’s article, Blogging in the Classroom- How to Get Started, for more ideas on how to use blogging to reinvent learning in your classroom!

Looking for more ways for your students to get real world writing experience? Share their blogs with us! With their permission, we would love to share their articles in our newsletters so other teachers can see the great things your students are doing!

Electronic Pen Pal: One of the best ways to extend learning outside the four walls of our classrooms is to find connections via the internet. How great would it be to connect with a class in France or Russia and collaborate across continents and cultures on common projects!

Check out Lisa Mims’ article, Pen Pals in the 21st Century, for ideas on how to make out-of-classroom connections for your students!

Game Based Learning: No Zulama article would be complete without mentioning game-based learning! Why? Because game-based learning is a great way to get students excited for learning, building, developing, and so much more! Games can be used to support any content area because you need all areas to develop a game. You need probability, storytelling, research, organization, art, and more to create a game. By having students play and build their own games, you can get your students excited about learning everything!

Check out Beverly Vaillancourt’s article, Redefining Play, for information on how you can use games to support your classroom!
If you have ideas for reinventing learning in the classroom, we’d love to see them in the comments below!

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