An article that the Kolob Canyon and Moonridge Academy Academic Director Susan Mackert wrote and had published in the NATSAP December 2018 Newsletter/Education Edition:
Students are bored by isolated instruction. They want to be involved, hands and hearts, into relevant content that brings subjects together into real-life or fantasy scenarios (think Fortnite or Dungeons and Dragons).
Teachers at Kolob Canyon School are gamers and they know how to talk the language of our action-oriented, multi-tasking ninjas. They do this through creative projects that integrate subjects and engage the senses of their students. Our academic team devotes Wednesdays to educational activities that combine relevant content from multi-disciplines into a cumulative hands-on project that builds interest and relationships.
A favorite project is the Poetry Slam, where students present a selected poem from their favorite poet along with one of their own poems on a local stage. Teachers and administrators join in on this challenge as well, showing our students it’s never too late to try scary things. On another Wednesday we divide our students into tribes and they go through challenges, playing outside games that mimic Ancient Warfare games. A favorite is the archery competition and building catapults, with the math teacher alongside helping them figure trajectory. Another much-loved activity starts in early September when students are assigned a region of the world and then choose a popular monster from that region to research. Our English and math teachers create an algorithm that evaluates a monsters strengths and abilities and students build posters and presentations that eventually culminates in the Monster Smash playoff held on Halloween day.
The key factor in student understanding and retention is significance. At Kolob Canyon School students are engaged in seeking, acquiring, and using knowledge in an organic way that brings life (and significance) to academics. And speaking of Dungeons & Dragons. . .last summer our English teacher, Ryan McLean (Rev) set his classes up in a gaming scenario that forms the grading backbone for every lesson. He calls it “Dungeons & Classrooms.” Essentially the students are playing an education-oriented version of “Dungeons & Dragons”. Each student creates a hero character that will be adventuring on a quest with their classmates. This hero gains more abilities and skills as the student turns in assignments on time and delves into books from the class reading list. The climax of the game happens on testing day, called “Boss Battles”. Student characters face a challenge that can only be overcome by answering test questions verbally or on the board.
Rev’s initial goal was to find a way to engage our students, many of whom have multiple layers of learning challenges. And he was successful. Students were excited for test day, which is unheard of, and homework completion rose significantly. What he also found, was retention increased as well. The choice to create meaning around our lessons does not demand perfection. It demands intention, with an eye towards improving the potential of every student. And the joy of this work lies not in predicting the future but in creating it.