Fifteen kids dropped out of Elizabeth Forward High School last year, and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Todd E. Keruskin says that’s 15 too many.
So school district reps asked themselves how they could change the school’s environment to retain as many students as possible. They toured Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center and decided to start their own Entertainment Technology Academy in the high school in January.
Now, says Keruskin, “kids are staying after school … and proposing a video game club. That’s what we’re excited about.”
The Academy is in a remodeled classroom that now features fiber-optic art, bungee-cord chairs and not a single desk for students or teachers.
The first 30 students are now working their way through the initial class, “Games Through the Ages,” learning to play, build and modify some of the world’s oldest games, and then will branch into one of three areas: computer programming and video; digital storytelling and creative writing; or digital art. Next spring, they’ll work together in groups of three (one from each of the above areas) to create an app of a video game.
Keruskin says the Academy is in touch with video game manufacturers to potentially partner, and are already testing games designed by the local company Schell Games.
Most astounding, he says, is that other school districts are visiting Elizabeth Forward to learn how to start an Academy of their own — and some districts around them have even inquired about sending their students to Elizabeth Forward.