When Melissa Burns, a teacher at Archwood School, stumbled upon the Girls Who Game (GWG) program while scrolling through Twitter, bringing the initiative to life in her school was a “no-brainer.”
The program appealed to Melissa because she is the founder of Middle Years Esports Manitoba, the Canadian Middle School Esport Association and a member of the Microsoft Innovative Education Expert program.
GWG provides an opportunity for young girls across North America to learn more about gaming and the use of Minecraft as a learning tool while developing competencies such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.
“At the beginning of the school year, I was looking for different extra-curricular opportunities for my students since traditional clubs and sports were not able to run,” said Burns. “I have been able to run Esports remotely, but I wanted to find something new that would hopefully capture the interest of other students in my school. I found a group of nine girls who wanted to explore the program with me, and I never would have guessed what an incredible learning journey we’d be a part of.”
The group of students from grades 6 to 8 named their team YWG9. As part of the GWG Culminating Challenge, they were tasked with designing and building an eatery of the future in Minecraft that would tackle the United Nations (UN) Decade of Action Challenge 2: Zero Hunger and the UN Decade of Action Challenge 6: Clean Water and Sanitation.
The students took after-school workshops to develop their skills in Minecraft, interacted with girls in clubs located in Canada and the United States, and heard from female leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) about their careers.
Once the build was complete, YWG9 created a five-minute business pitch for their design that would be used in competitions against national and international clubs. Part of their pitch included writing and recording a script, filming walk-throughs of the build and composing an original music score as the soundtrack for the video. Watch their video.
The team was also invited to compete in the Minecraft Make and Model Esports tournament. Five teams competed in a series of build challenges and were judged by a panel of representatives from Microsoft, Dell and Intel.
The YWG9 team was awarded Canadian runner up in the GWG Culminating Challenge and first place in the Minecraft Make and Model Esports competition.
“What started out as a fun extra-curricular activity turned into an amazing journey of learning for everyone involved,” said Burns. “We were challenged to grow in our global competencies and helping provide these girls with skills that will serve them in every aspect of their lives. Watching them transform in their ability to communicate, collaborate and think critically, even though we were meeting remotely from home after school, was inspiring and uplifting.”