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Think, Design, Playtest, Change... CELEBRATE! 

By now, many of the middle schoolers at GK's Playing for Keeps program at Global Neighborhood Secondary School in East Harlem know the steps of the game design process: they've brainstormed ideas, drafted game design documents, made paper prototypes and flowcharts, tested out their ideas, and used the program Scratch to code their games or have used Gamestar Mechanic to design them. On June 3, there was one last step: show off!


Sixth, seventh, and eighth grade game designers came together to present their games for change to their classmates, teachers, and administrators at the school. As students discussed and discovered throughout the semester, while the video games they most often play are entertaining and fun, games can also convey social messages, demonstrate a point of view, and raise awareness about global and local issues.



Guests had a chance to check out students' formal presentations, could browse posters the students made about their games, and playtest the finished products (or in some cases, works in progress).



The Scratch games presented included "Journey of an Immigrant Kid" by seventh graders Malak and Aya, who themselves immigrated from Yemen and Egypt when they were younger. They used the game to explore a local angle on the issue of global migration. Their game stars a 12-year old recent immigrant who must navigate the school cafeteria, avoiding bullies who say negative comments about how she speaks English and the hijab she wears. She can boost her self-esteem by collecting positive comments.



Their classmate, eighth grader Mark, created a version of the game on Gamestar Mechanic which in many ways shadowed his own experiences arriving from the Philippines at the start of the school year. His game involves talking to intolerant classmates and educating them about immigration and immigrant rights. He included several facts that he had researched.



Check out Malak and Aya's game on Scratch!



Other games:

Don't get caught by the bullies by Max and Anthony

Animal Abuse game by Jenaya and Jojo


Global Kids is excited to continue our partnership with GNSS in the Fall, and can't wait to see what the students come up with next.


Playtesting Haunts 2014 Treks 

You don't need a time machine to experience the past. That's what students at the High School for Global Citizenship and the School for Human Rights found out this semester as they created their own location-based games for GPS devices that drew on local history and made connections to larger global issues, such as protection of the right to equality before the law, as stated in Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Stroll down to the housing complex across the street from Jackie Robinson School in Crown Heights with your cell phone or tablet and load up the TaleBlazer app. By playing the student-produced game, you'll learn that if you were at that spot five decades ago, you would have seen Ebbet's Field-- the Brooklyn Dodgers home baseball field where Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Playing as Jackie Robinson, you'll be faced with racist, dehumanizing situations as you visit all four bases of the baseball diamond and attempt to score a home run. You must make decisions in character. As is noted in the game, Jackie Robinson is just one of many who faced discrimination on the basis of race over the years. Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights protects people around the world from such unlawful treatment by ensuring that "all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law." 

On the day of the final playtest, student game-designers presented their game in front of their peers and staff from Global Kids and the Brooklyn Public Library.
They discussed game play, the game design process, and some of the challenges they faced in designing the game.

Around NYC, Haunts Games Blossom this Spring 

What would Jackie Robinson say to the people who currently live on site of the field where he broke the color line in major league baseball? 


How did a Queens mobster contribute to the history of Long Island City?


How did people react to shootings that happened in Wingate Park in 1997?


These are just some of the questions being pondered by youth game designers at the School for Human Rights, Long Island City High School and the High School for Global Citizenship as Global Kids' NYC Haunts program kicks into high gear.


At HSGC, students have decided to situate their geo-locative game on the site of what was Ebbet's Field, where the famous Brooklyn Dodgers played baseball decades ago. Students are channelling the "spirits" of the players who supported and those who were reluctant to support Jackie Robinson as he became the first African-American to play on a major league team.



They have been making decisions about their game's structure, determining that players will walk around the site, collecting virtual baseball cards each time they make key decisions related to Jackie Robinson's experiences. They are also using the "land mines" functionality of the TaleBlazer program to insert what they are calling "trap cards," random agents that will attempt to steal pre-earned cards.



NYC Haunts at Long Island City High School in Queens kicked off in early March where students shared their best ghost stories and paranormal experiences. The conversation eventually shifted to a discussion about this history of the Long Island City and Astoria neighborhoods. Students wracked their brains, trying to think of some cool historical facts about the area, but quickly referred to Wikipedia as they realized they had some serious fact-finding to do. They learned that Frank Costello, one of the most infamous mob bosses in American history, was buried in Astoria. This and many other great historical questions are being considered for LIC Haunts' geo-locative game concept.


Players of the game being created by SHR middle school students will have the opportunity to walk around Wingate Park collecting the testimonies of witnesses and victims of distant and recent gun crimes to raise awareness about this issue in their neighborhood and to provide safety tips and ideas for solutions.


First, participants brainstormed topics and ideas for their games:



After picking a topic, they did some research with educators from the Brooklyn Public Library to collect stories and ideas.



Inspired by the articles, their own experiences and perspectives, they created characters and created a trajectory around the playground for the player to navigate.



Most recently, they used a paper prototype to showcase and refine their ideas.



With just a few weeks left to the school year, students will be finishing up their prototypes and will start coding and playtesting their games. We are excited to share them with our communities!


A new report out this week from the National Summer Learning Association features the work and reflections of Global Kids' two teaching fellows, Andrew Adler and Scott Neagle, who came on board as part of a partnership with NSLA this past summer. The NYC Dept. of Ed teachers became part of our team, co-facilitating and co-planning NYC Haunts and Playing for Keeps workshops in order to learn GK OLP's best practices for guiding youth through connected learning experiences -- practices they will take back to their school communities.


Scott Neagle, a summer NSLA fellow and a teacher at Bard High School Early College Queens, works with Playing for Keeps middle schoolers to design their game, Pollution's No Illusion.


NSLA fellow Andrew Adler supports students as they complete research for their geo-locative game about the Civil War Draft Riots.


In the report, Adler and Neagle share their take-aways about working with youth in non-classroom environments, the new digital tools they explored, and the importance of educators taking on the role of "life-long learners." Also showcased is a video conversation with Ben, a student who took part in Playing for Keeps, who when asked what he learned about himself during the game design program, said, "that I'm good at it."


Thanks to the MacArthur Foundation for their support of this worthwhile partnership with NSLA!

NYC Haunts, Now at a GK School Near You! 

What stories does your neighborhood have to tell?


Global Kids is excited to announce that NYC Haunts -- our signature program where youth create a mobile, augmented reality game exploring local history and contemporary issues -- is blasting out to three Global Kids schools this Spring! In a pilot project supported by the Hive Learning Network NYC and the New York Community Trust, students at the School for Human Rights in Brooklyn, the High School for Global Citizenship, and Long Island City High School are creating geo-locative games and helping GK educators experiment with and stretch the NYC Haunts curriculum in advance of a roll out at several Global Kids schools next Fall. 


Hive partner organizations the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Exposure Camp, and The Point will also host Haunts pilots this Summer.



In addition to iterating on past versions of the program conducted in collaboration with the New York and Brooklyn Public Libraries, this year's pilot will test out a new augmented-reality game design engine, TaleBlazer, currently being developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Researchers and software developers at MIT are closely supporting the program to help Global Kids learn all of the features of the program and help measure student learning outcomes.


The games, which will follow the footsteps of a ghost detective, will engage both game designers and players. Designers create a digital trek through a neighborhood, dropping in clues such as audio clips, videos, and photos, to help solve the mystery and uncover the neighborhood’s history. Youth research the ghost’s story, the social, environmental, or economic conditions in the city that might have caused its demise, and imagine the steps players can take to help the ghost move on and cease its haunting. In the process, youth learn to research and curate content to help other youth understand the plight of the ghost, explore contemporary issues or a particular moment in neighborhood history and develop their digital media, critical thinking, and communications skills. 


Kylan and Angel, from left, middle schoolers at School for Human Rights, play a location-based game created by Tommy, right, and his classmates at School for International Studies this past summer. Angel and Kylan will create their own game this spring.


We'd also love to share a poem written by Angel (pictured above) after playing a first example location-based game with our NYC Haunts program this January. Enjoy!

Today was another average day at GK.
We made a change and saved the Day.
We used our androids our feet and more
To help a dad and drop the ball
The dad we help lost his dog bacon
When we were done home he was taken
I love location based game
because we move around to get to our aim
meet us next time to learn and see more
and be apart of GK down to the core

- Angel, Age 14