No, this isn’t a story about sports.
The reference here is to competition in the abstract, and all contests involving luck, skill and strategy.
Students in the school’s newly developed Entertainment Technology Academy are learning all about games this year from the historical and design perspectives in preparation for classes they’ll take later that involve design and construction of computer video games.
On Monday, the district unveiled a newly designed classroom for the academy paid for with a $10,000 grant from The Grable Foundation. The learning space features lots of vivid colors and sharp angular patterns on the walls and ceiling, cushioned bench seating, roller chairs, a decorative work table, pop art and two flat screen TVs on the walls.
In short, it looks nothing like the old drop ceiling, desk-furnished computer lab that once occupied the classroom.
Students in the program told district stakeholders at the open house that they found the classroom inspiring.
“There’s no end to what we can think of in there,” said Wesley McVicker, who is one of 30 students enrolled in the program.
The district introduced the program this year after learning in the fall that it had received the Grable grant.
The introductory course, Gaming through the Ages, began in January as preparation for additional classes to be offered next year in video game programming, digital storytelling and digital art.
Math teacher Mary Wilson and English teacher Heather Hibner are instructors for the course. The two say the curriculum brings right-brain and left-brain learners together.
“I’ve watched non-traditional students excel,” Wilson said. “They’re now looking at games from a new perspective.”
Junior Lily Hunt said the course appealed to her because she is interested in art. She’s looking forward to learning more about 3-D art programs next year.
“I think it’s going to help me get into those kinds of courses in college,” she said.
Freshman Aaron Rotharmel said he has plans to study game design when he goes to college, too. He said there is a lot to know when it comes to designing a game.
“Before you actually come up with it,” he said, “you need some inspiration.”
For now, a lot of the inspiration is coming from games based on classic designs. Students have created two-dimensional boards based on recreational games from ancient Rome and Egypt.
Superintendent Bart Rocco said the district turned to the program as a way of keeping students interested in school.
“We had to look beyond the walls,” said Rocco, “and think about learning in a different way.”
Students all say there was a rush for the guidance office when the program was announced.
Hunt said she knew she’d found a good fit at the onset of the course when “they gave us this iPad and said, (tilde)OK, you’re going to do something new.'”
District assistant superintendent Todd Keruskin said the district has to be inventive if it wants to keep students engaged in learning in a high-tech world.
He noted that a forthcoming high school library renovation program, also funded by The Grable Foundation through a $160,000 grant, will develop a media center within the library that includes a video and audio production studio.
District officials thanked many at Monday’s event, including Gregg Behr from The Grable Foundation, the architectural firm JC Pierce LLC, which donated design services for the technology room, and the Entertainment Technology Academy at Carnegie Mellon University.
Others who were thanked for supporting the program were the district’s maintenance staff, which did the work on the classroom; the school board; Zulama; OnHand Schools; Ford Business Machines; Schell Games; Idea Foundry; Sprout Fund; and Pennsylvania Coach Lines.