There will be a lot of new jobs in the work force of tomorrow, and learning to build video games is one way School District 69 students are preparing for it.
Grade 4 to 7 students from the district’s STREAM program (Science, Technology, Robotics, Engineering and Math) showed off their original creations to the public with a pop-up arcade at the Parksville library on Wednesday, May 24.
The event was the culmination of a new learning unit provided by The Learning Partnership, which the students began in January, said STREAM teacher Sarah Hung.
“(Students) started off by writing a story and then developing the characters that are in the story, creating a backstory for those characters,” said Hung. “And then once they kind of fully fleshed out what the game was going to be, and they had explored it from many different angles, they then went into Scratch — which is a programming software — and they actually coded a game from scratch.”
One of the key aims of the program is to teach computational thinking, which in part teaches kids to organize problems in such a way that computers can understand and help.
“Computational thinking is a huge part of the revised curriculum and supports students in exploring opportunities for their future,” said Hung. “We know that the job force is changing and that there are new jobs being created every day out there, so I want to be able to provide my students with a variety of tools so that they can go into the job force one day and have those options.”
But teaching kids to create a video game does a lot more than just teach them about computers and gaming.
In creating the games, the students had to work in groups of three, working together and dividing their tasks.
They also designed original characters, and came up with a backstory and plot for their game.
Taking regular learning goals and teaching them in a technology-based way is a big part of the STREAM program, said Hung. Students learn the same things that others do, but with new tools — in learning to write a story, they use gaming software instead of a pen and paper.
For these students, getting to use those new tools is part of their passion, and why they joined the STREAM program.
Getting to show what they had created at the arcade day was a highlight for the students, said Hung.
“They loved it,” she said, adding that having the general public come by, play the games and ask the kids about their process for creating them helped them to get authentic feedback.
Asked what it’s like teaching nine-year-olds to build video games, she said, “It’s quite incredible. It helps me see that the limits, well, it’s unlimited with kids. They are able to embrace new technology so quickly, and even teach me things that I didn’t know, which is really cool to see.”
The STREAM program is based at Arrowview Elementary School. It is open to Grade 4-7 students across the district, though Hung noted the waiting list has been quite long.
“We are hoping to expand (the program),” she said.