“Civics is boring.” Have you heard this before? While there’s some truth to it, we have to respectfully disagree with the idea that learning about your role in a democracy is boring. Through our work in youth civics education we have found that if you want to teach civics to students in away that is impactful and will continue to resonate with them long after the lesson ends, you have to get creative.
At Morven Park’s Center for Civic Impact, we believe that civics should be something students look forward to studying. There’s no reason it can’t be fun, entertaining, memorable and relevant. One way we do this is by asking ourselves when we develop a new program, “Can we gamify this?”
Gamification includes using risks, rewards, and characters to help students engage with new subjects. It also has a strong emphasis on teamwork as students have to work together in order to reach a common goal. By incorporating techniques of game design with education theory, we use the element of choice to create buy-in. Students are therefore in charge of their experience and able to dictate the outcome.
Using game design in education works for several reasons, one of which is simply that it’s a fun way to learn. Infusing a lesson with active elements that are challenging and entertaining hooks students’ interests and generates an openness to learning.
We have used gamification in two of our high school programs (so far!), The Advocacy Game and Balancing Act. (To learn more about The Advocacy game,see our blog post about it). In both programs students are asked to take on a role as they work together to navigate a series of challenges and checkpoints in order to accomplish a specific goal, developing along the way important collaborative, deliberative and analytical skills critical for both game-play and civic life.