• Funded by: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Project type: Curriculum


GameDesk develops and offers a variety of leading edge curriculum packages that engage students in playful learning experiences and help to build the body of skills necessary for 21st century success. Each Curriculum PlayBook module is aligned to Common Core and Next Generation standards using highly engaging contexts so that students are able to connect with content in more meaningful ways. Major lenses that are a part of all GameDesk curricula include learning through play, learning through making, and learning through discovery. To promote creativity, persistence, and curiosity in students, GameDesk takes an integrated approach with each activity—challenging students to tackle problems from many perspectives. Students participate in intelligent and collaborative discussions that focus on a self-assessment model of understanding to help lead them to answers. Curriculum PlayBooks include high tech, low tech, and no tech options and can be facilitated by GameDesk Bootcamps for professional development upon request.


  bobo BoBo Explores Light – An interactive lesson that guides students through a scientific and cultural understanding of light We found great value in using the reflection chapter of Bobo Explores Light to give students the opportunity to explore how light reflects, learn about angles of incidence, hypothesize and make inferences on the laws of reflection, and write in their own words about these topics after thorough research. Students manipulate the positioning of four mirrors and a laser on screen and turn the laser to observe the angles of reflection that form when the light reflects off the mirrors. They turn on BoBo’s 3D projector to compare the incoming and outgoing angles and the angles of incidence and reflection. Small-group and full-group discussions are facilitated as these activities progress. Get full lesson plan.


dragonboxDragonBox – Discover, deconstruct, and document the rules of algebra through game mechanics DragonBox is one of the best examples of merging game rules with learning content. Consequently, when a player learns the rules of DragonBox, she is also learning some of the core rules and principles of algebra. This activity tries to leverage that by having students ostensibly describe and document the rules of the game and then convert those rules into a description of the basics of algebra. During play, students document the rules of the game (e.g. light and dark versions of the same cards can be combined to form hurricanes). They should be as comprehensive and articulate as possible, acting like technical writers for the game’s manual. After they’ve drafted their manual, students convert this technical documentation into excerpts from an algebra textbook. This activity is designed to coincide with players’ first experience with the game, so that they believe themselves initially to just be documenting the game’s rules and then later realize they have been simultaneously documenting mathematical rules. Get full lesson plan.


mesopotamia Mesopotamia Edu-LARP – A live action role-play learning experience through ancient Mesopotamia Mesopotamia Educational Live Action Role-Play (Edu-LARP) by Seekers Unlimited is a week-long, fully immersive collaborative storytelling game in which students and teachers assume the roles of fictional characters within the context of ancient Mesopotamia during the reign of Hammurabi (estimated between 1779 BC and 1715 BC). Students role-play various classes that existed during ancient Mesopotamia (merchants, governors, astrologers, and priests) and gain a deeper understanding of the “Cradle of Civilization” through researching the social norms and practices of Mesopotamian culture and interacting with one another, while in character, to fulfill in-game objectives. Facilitators also have an important role, acting as the “Judges of Babylon”, responsible for establishing the overall narrative, introducing each activity, maintaining competitive balance, and advising students on their character-driven objectives. Get full lesson plan.


popplet_thumbPopplet Taxonomies – Collaboratively discuss and classify information into meaningful categories This lesson was created as part of a taxonomy module where middle school students were given the unique opportunity to thoughtfully negotiate what they considered essential by organizing information into meaningful categories. We found that Popplet, as a graphic organization tool, was conducive for this exercise. Instead of us telling them what was important, this activity allowed students to develop a set of skills to help them understand the usefulness of a taxonomy; a means to collaborate, communicate, and create meaning with others to make sense of the world around them. These skills, as articulated by our students, included: comparing and contrasting, naming, clustering, and creating formal groups. Students were then able to transfer these skills to multiple content areas, including science (wave forms and wildlife) and game design (video game systems). This exercise can also be done at the high school level as discussions may prove to be more nuanced and complex. Get full lesson plan.


physics_sandbox Newton’s Playground – An interactive digital to physical learning experience exploring physics This module provides several opportunities for students to exhibit various physics and engineering vocabulary terms and concepts. It begins with a digital sandbox game called Newton’s Playground. The game is designed in such a way that students implicitly learn physics concepts, such as systems thinking and energy conservation, through the design of simple machines in trial-and-error situations. It also provides the opportunity for teachers to ask students to articulate their knowledge and vocabulary about physics during gameplay and in the public exhibition of their solutions, as well as in follow-up assessments. After playing Newton’s Playground students transfer the knowledge they’ve gained from the digital game to a physical, hands-on component. Using their increased understanding of balance, equilibrium, momentum, and much more, students produce physical artifacts. These simple machines can include levers, pendulums, ramps, and springboards. After construction they then exhibit the artifacts and explain the machine’s functionality to their peers. Get full lesson plan.


reach_for_the_sun_002 Reach for the Sun – Learn about plant reproduction and photosynthesis through a new process called Play-Research-Present We saw great value in Reach for the Sun in teaching plant reproduction and plant pollination, along with its ability to demonstrate systems of plant growth and the relationship between the root structures, leaf structures, flowering structures, and pollination. To complement the game’s features, we created a curriculum around the game using a new system we call Play-Research-Present Curriculum. In this approach, we put students into teams, with each student having the role of player, strategist, researcher, or note taker. Students rotated through these roles and played through the game while researching vocabulary, concepts, and processes. Students then presented their gameplay to the whole class and leveraged the play to explain what they learned. Get full lesson plan.


rollercoaster Roller Coaster Physics – Design and build virtual and physical roller coasters to explore energy in motion To better understand potential energy, kinetic energy, speed, friction, fractions, and percentages, students participate in a digital to physical roller coaster creation sandbox. Students first design and create their own fun and exciting virtual roller coaster using the game Jason Coaster Creator. This helps them develop a better understanding of the three energy types: kinetic, potential, and dissipated energies. After a class discussion where teachers use formative assessment and clarify any major misconceptions about the energies, students transition into the physical roller coaster build. This provides a contextualized place for them to apply their knowledge, while helping them develop skills such as systems thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and creativity.



thermbot ThermBot Wave Blaster – Energize your understanding of wave properties and the electromagnetic spectrum Students learn about different thermal energy concepts by playing through various levels of ThermBot, a digital science simulation game. Through gameplay students explore radiation waves and their properties such as medium, length, and frequency. They also learn how the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum can be associated with everyday objects such as a human, cat, bunsen burner, or nuclear bomb since each object emits different waves that correspond with their thermal energy, which is their natural radiation or temperature.



Caesar Cipher Alternative Reality Game (ARG) – Engage in an elaborate puzzle game as you explore ciphers and linguistics  This module brings an alternative reality into the classroom using a puzzle component known as a cipher. These tools were used to transmit secret information, one example being in Roman times when generals wanted to convey messages on the battleground. A strip would carry specific letters and symbols on it and the general would have a staff with a certain circumference. When he wrapped the strip around his staff, a secret message would appear. Students must recreate this process to decode a message, which they then enter into a website.  Then the website will unlock something, serving as an introduction to our whole alternate reality game. Each next move unlocks a new piece of the game. This puzzle exploration game ignites the imagination and leads students through language, linguistics, and code systems that humans have used over time.