June 15th, 2024

Notre Dame using video games to teach

By RYAN MCCRACKEN on March 11, 2021.

Notre Dame Academy principal Neal Siedlecki (left) and teacher Chad Kletzel stand in what will be the home of the school's new e-sports program on Wednesday.--NEWS PHOTO RYAN MCCRACKEN

mccracken@medicinehatnews.com@MHNMcCracken

Video games in the classroom?

On its face, it’s easy to perceive the idea to be counterintuitive to a school atmosphere, but video games have become a significant part of modern culture, and initiatives aimed at creating healthy lifestyles around a console are few and far between.

That’s where Notre Dame Academy will be stepping in.

“We want to take these kids’ passions and turn it into an educational opportunity, to kind of teach them how to live a healthy lifestyle that involves their passion,” said Notre Dame principal Neal Siedlecki.

“Our goal as educators is to teach the kids how to interact and behave during the games. Then to take that even further, how do you take that passion and build it into a healthy lifestyle? That’s what we’re looking at.”

Notre Dame will begin offering the e-sports course as an option in the fall for Grade 8 and 9 students, with plans to open up the classroom – which will feature 13 two-player gaming stations – for an after-school e-sports club once or twice per week.

Teacher Chad Kletzel says the gaming aspect of the course is an entry point, which connects students to a wide array of potential learning opportunities from stress management to nutrition and teamwork.

“I think we’re using the gaming part of it as an entry point and connection to school. Here at Notre Dame, with all the other programming we do, that’s been a big thing here. So, we just looked at this as an opportunity to do that,” he said. “With the gaming we can talk about healthy lifestyle stuff, so we can talk about nutrition or we can talk about self-management. When I’m getting certain emotions playing the game, how do I deal with those emotions so it doesn’t escalate to being something that’s super negative? It’s actually learning to deal with stress.”

As for the games themselves, Siedlecki says they’ve been consulting with similar programs at the high school and college levels, as well as the Alberta Esports Association, and of course the students themselves, to determine a violence-free list of titles.

“There are absolutely no guts or gore, no fighting. Basically, the idea behind it is, what are the kids wanting to play? But that takes a little bit of guidance,” he said. “The games we’re finding through Victor Ly with the Alberta Esports Association, through all the high schools, the ACAC, that are involved, the biggest games they’re playing are Minecraft, Rocket League, Mario Kart and 10-minute chess.”

Siedlecki added they’ve noticed video games have the ability to bridge gaps between people with different interests, and believes the program and club will create deeper bonds between students, as well as a stronger connection to the school.

“My thing is all about connecting kids with our building, building relationships with each other, and this is something I know these kids are involved in. And it’s the volleyball star with the skateboarder … they both play just as much,” he said. “You take these kids who normally didn’t talk with each other, and now they’ve got somebody they can talk with that they might have never thought about talking to, and it builds this connection between them.”

Keltzel agreed, he’s been surprised to see how many people share a passion for e-sports and gaming, and he’s looking forward to extending the concept of team building and camaraderie past physical athletics at Notre Dame.

“The idea of playing games together and having that team aspect, we have that a lot in our athletics,” he said. “But this is a club to kind of have a different format and maybe reach some different students that don’t always feel connected to school.”

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