New Games-Based Charter School to Open in Chicago
2.1.11 | Quest to Learn is coming to Chicago. The Chicago Board of Education last week approved a bid for a new charter school that will immerse kids in hands-on learning, with digital media at its core. The school will open in fall 2011.
Chicago Quest will extend the successful curriculum at Quest to Learn in New York, a public school that we’ve covered frequently on Spotlight. The curriculum is built around real world problem-solving and creativity. Games and game design are a central feature.
The school will use game design to teach students how to become systems thinkers. Games work as rule-based learning systems, creating worlds in which players actively participate, use strategic thinking to make choices, solve complex problems, seek content knowledge, receive constant feedback, and consider the point of view of others. Students at Chicago Quest become both game designers and game players in their quest to learn.
Katie Salen, who founded the Quest to Learn in New York City and now serves as the school’s executive director of design, says the curriculum is designed to mimic the learning that takes place during game play – it is collaborative, inquiry based, and supports experimentation.
Lessons become “quests” and assignments become “missions.” Through interdisciplinary coursework, students become explorers, historians and evolutionary biologists as they record podcasts, film and edit video, design video games, and solve school-wide challenges. They also begin to understand how larger systems work—a critical thinking skill that will be invaluable in an increasingly complex world. From ant colonies to galaxies, our world is made up of simple and complex systems. Helping students understand how they function is an advanced method of teaching them how to think critically about knowledge, content and their world.
“Systems thinking,” Salen said in a recent interview on NPR, “gives you a tool to manage complexity. Because of the complexity of problems, if you’re not able to look at them as a system, you’re just going to look at a blur. You will just be overwhelmed by the complexity.”
Chicago Quest is one of three planned schools for grades 6 through 12 that will be run by the Chicago International Charter School (CICS) with support from the MacArthur Foundation. A founding principle of the school is that the students of today will soon be the scholars, scientists, entrepreneurs, writers, designers and leaders of tomorrow. The goal of Quest to Learn is to educate children for college and career success in the 21st century.
Chicago Quest will join CCIS’s existing network of Chicago charter schools and will serve students from the city’s Near North and West side neighborhoods, as well as other communities.
In addition to the Institute of Play, which runs the New York City school, Chicago Quest will partner with organizations from around Chicago including DePaul University, YOUmedia at the Chicago Public Library, the Digital Youth Network and the newly formed Chicago Learning Network. The new campus is scheduled to open in August with more than 300 6th- and 7th-grade students.
More information is available at the CICS site.
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