As part of my continuing series of education in gaming, I interviewed Aaron Vanek, Executive Director of Seekers Unlimited. Seekers Unlimited is a 501(c)(3) public charity organization dedicated to fostering education by developing and producing live action role-playing (LARP) programs for classrooms. They use the oldest art form--play pretend--to create a unique and thoroughly engaging learning experience.
Michael Tresca (MT): Under what circumstances have you implemented gaming in education?
Aaron Vanek (AV): Seekers Unlimited has run four different live action role playing (larp) games for four different schools since 2011.
The first, Star Seekers, was a science fiction (starship) LARP for a sixth grade class and primarily covered math and science. This ran approximately once a week for six weeks, lasting about two hours each session.
We both designed and ran each adventure; the teacher mostly turned the class of about 26 students over to us.
The second, Hit Seekers, was for a high school math class. This ran for about a month, but we only came in once or twice a week for an hour and a half. There was a pervasive and online component to the game.
We ran this in conjunction with Morgan Joeck, a Seekers staffer and licensed math teacher. It was his math class, and there were about 22 students who were grouped into teams that role-played executives of music companies looking to make money by booking artists to make albums.
The third, Ancient Mesopotamia, was part of the Playmaker School, contracted to us through GameDesk. This lasted one week, and we created content for the entire school day for that week, not including lunch, recess, P.E. or language classes. We did very little, turning the running of the class over to the teachers, but we were present for questions and to make any adjustments to the game on the fly. This was for a sixth grade class of 36 students. We primarily focused on history and social studies, but also covered language, science, research, writing, and much more.
The fourth was for an 8th grade science class, and we ran almost every day for a full semester. There were six different larps, each one about a week long, but only for their science class, so about an hour a day. There were 25 students in class. Focus was on science, but again, other subjects--math, history, writing--were connected.
See the list for the rest of the interview.
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