- Inside the Classroom
- Upper Division
By Josh Lake, Upper Division Dean of Technology
Intensives Week at Denver JDS employs Project-Based Learning to develop future-ready skills like problem-solving, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration. Intensives engage our students in a sustained inquiry of a question, problem, or challenge that is relevant in today’s world. Among the benefits of Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a greater retention of content. PBL also gives students agency, which is a building block for the confidence they’ll need to pursue solutions long into their future.
One intensive option this week at Denver JDS is Esports. Esports is a billion-dollar industry that takes specific strategy-based video games and players join teams, compete locally, regionally, and internationally for large prize purses. Professional gamers in 2019 averaged a salary of $300,000 a year, not including endorsements. One main reason this is not more mainstream yet because older generations are not familiar with how passionate younger generations feel about Esports.
This week, 19 students in grades 6-12 came together to solve this driving question: How can you persuade a group of decision-makers that Denver JDS should or should not adopt Esports as part of the athletic program? We have employed an array of modalities to examine this question and this cutting edge billion-dollar industry.
To begin answering this question, students had to first explore the following essential questions: What makes something a sport? Should we, as a school, redefine what sport is? Should Esports be categorized with traditional sports? What are the pros and cons of esports? What would it take to create a real Esports training facility in the Upper Division building? These are not easy questions even for adults to answer, and the discussions immediately went into depth.
The week began with dividing the groups into four teams to simulate the training and bonding that occurs on real Esports teams. We had students choose games to “train” on and learn how to be an expert in. Each teammate had to become an expert in one game. The teams had to work together to determine the best way to distribute gaming assignments and then the best way to train for the final competition. The feeling in the room began to mimic a sideline of an athletic event, student coaches giving tips and advice, the players comparing notes and strategy. Emotions poured as students made breakthroughs and began to work as a color war team may as they plan a final night presentation.
The final product will be a persuasive argument created by each team to solve the initial driving question. They have put hours of research into their projects and demonstrated true Project Based Learning creativity: from TED-Talk style speeches with an essay, a video essay comparing esports to traditional sports, to a dramatic script, it’s clear that students have thought outside the box to accomplish their goals.
“Intensives week has taught me how to analyze challenging questions from different angles,” said Denver JDS Senior, Elan Perryman. “Within a matter of hours on the first day of Intensives Week, my peers and I were forming our thoughts and opinions from new and different perspectives. My entire group had different but respectable opinions on Esports in our world today. We challenged each other based on our research, but we are all now well informed on Esports and it's potential in the coming years.”
The energy and passion in the process of searching for this answer were magical and intoxicating. If we as a school can mimic a percentage of this student-driven authentic engagement in all of our subject areas, we will have a school of passionate, engaged, thoughtful learners.