￼Designed and developed by GameDesk, PlayMaker School at New Roads reflects a revolution in education designed to prepare students for 21st century success. The school model is founded upon the principle that students—acknowledged as experts with valuable experiences—should be empowered to create meaningful relationships with knowledge by interacting, playing, and making. Playfulness allows the students to safely take risks and troubleshoot through a variety of challenges. Research shows that students are more engaged when play is integrated; through playful problem solving practices, they develop effective 21st century learning skills. At PlayMaker, the aim is to make school feel less like “school” and more like real life so that students experience purposeful learning. The school model design was developed over three years and first launched in fall 2012. The school is realized with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and AT&T, and launched in partnership with New Roads School.
Our model allows the students to use their existing intuitions and life experiences as the starting point to engage in learning opportunities. PlayMaker class modules bring those intuitions into conflict or reinforce them, allowing students to develop their own meaning. Over the course of the year, students experience growth in articulation, critical thinking, complex problem solving, socialization skills, and independent learning. Students will come to use knowledge in a way that is meaningful to them. PlayMaker’s main goal is that every student will possess the knowledge, skills, and abilities to become innovators in the 21st century global environment.
Learning Through Play
Failure exists as an integral part of the learning process in our school model. Students are able to experiment with new ideas again and again, allowing them to embrace innovation by developing their own creative solutions. Through experimental play, students are able to understand the process of science. Throughout the school year, PlayMaker students are immersed in virtual and physical interactive environments with a myriad of entry points to STEAM content.
Learning Through Making
We believe that if you can imagine it, you can make it. Students build, deconstruct, and reinvent a vast array of devices, games, and inventions. Spotlighting the DIY (do-it-yourself) culture, PlayMaker’s making curriculum triggers hands-on innovation that perpetuates a passion for personalized learning. Students build their skills in multiple disciplines, including electrical engineering, game programming, robotics, 3D printing, computational literacy, and eco-design.
Learning Through Discovery & Inquiry
Rather than reading definitions and examples in textbooks, students are encouraged to form deep connections with complex concepts through discovery. Students engage in curriculum that sparks their interest and leads to the open exploration of facts, processes, and concepts that comprise human understanding. In these discovery modules, students are not given the answers, but provided with the proper materials and contexts to find the answers themselves. PlayMaker students interact with modules by exploring, experimenting, and grappling with their own ideas and asking their own questions — troubleshooting challenges that arise along the way.
Role of the Student
At PlayMaker, we are also changing the role of the student. They spend more time doing planning, assessing, and peer review—activities traditionally reserved for teachers—resulting in learning that is deeper and more authentic.
Creative Learning Space
The spaces we inhabit have a profound effect on how we inhabit them. We have a responsibility to students to create a vibrant exploratory space for young people to discover, play, build, and learn. At the Playmaker School students are empowered, challenged, and included. The school is divided into three creative spaces: a large Adventure Room collaborative space, an ideation-based DreamLab, and a DIY hands-on Maker Space.
The Teacher's Role
PlayMaker teachers serve as facilitators to ensure that the discovery process does not lead to misconceptions about the ideas of play. They provide channels for open discoveries and consistently help students make guided discoveries and extract meaning within the learning process.