“How can we create value beyond what they’ve been taught?”, is the question Cynthia Bettio, Department Head of Canadian and World Studies at Our Lady Queen of the World Catholic Academy, asked when entering the new school year.
She was brainstorming a unique and innovative way to engage her Grade 10 Canadian history class in the curriculum’s content. She explains how students entering Grade 10 history generally don’t have a positive experience in Grade 7 or 8 history classes. They have jaded views on the topic, textbook answers, and a lot
By making history relevant and worthwhile, not only can we develop new skills, but learn content that is still important in today’s society. Even if history is not their favorite subject, if we change the way we teach the content,
students might have a better view of it by the end of the course.
That’s when Cynthia thought of the idea to have students create a game that would make learning history fun and interactive. She wanted to ensure that they were hitting the major curriculum topics, while also taking the opportunity to expand the narrative and teach history from different points of view that were traditionally looked over. In addition, she wanted students to lead and be part of the creative process to ensure all voices were being heard.
After establishing the type of project the students wanted to create, Cynthia reached out to Anu Bidani to bring the technological aspect of the project to life. With the use of Unity Game Development, STEM Minds gave students access to the platform and the staff guided them through the process of video game design.
The idea of the game was to create a digital timeline where players could drag and drop historical events into the correct time period. The timeline displayed important historical events and contributions of marginalised groups in Canadian society(including Indigenous peoples, differently abled people, women, etc).
Before starting to code the main the project, all students worked through the Unity module, and had the opportunity to create a smaller version of the game. Throughout the development process, students ran into many challenges that required them to think critically and outside of the box. This type of problem based learning taught them that they don’t have to have the answers all the time.
By the end of the term, students successfully developed and coded the functioning game. Everyone in the class said they loved working on the project because they had the opportunity to make so many new skills that they wouldn’t have otherwise.
Moreover, students explained how they enjoyed learning Canadian history despite the difficulty level. They were able to learn a different side of history, a side that was told through unheard and marginalized voices.
Throughout the project, students built resiliency to challenges and became comfortable with learning unknown skills.
A big congratulations to Cynthia Bettio who won the 2022 Governor General Award for her innovative way of teaching history through the game. Hopefully, this story will inspire others to take a creative and modern approach to education.