The video game created by Adrien Prowty, 9, contains 57 levels, which is the highest in the class. Photo by Dorian Valenzuela: The Signal.
Dorian Valenzuela The Signal
The University of Houston-Clear Lake and Clear Creek Independent School District have established a partnership to gather a group of game developers, one child at a time.
Through a gifted and talented program at CCISD, many of the kids who are embedded in regular classrooms are given the chance to work and communicate with other children who have similar characteristics.
Some of these talented students are given the opportunity to visit UHCL and participate in a variety of courses ranging from field biology and robotics to Web design and video gaming.
Jana Willis, associate professor of teacher education, is in charge of guiding 10-year-old students to use video game-creating software in order to design the game of their dreams.
“Last semester we began making video games and I am completely blown away,” Willis said. “They are 10-year-old kids making video games that are 57 levels or more. Their critical thinking skills make us really stop and think about what we are teaching. They are amazing to me.”
The students are currently working with the Game Maker – Studio software by YOYO Games. The program allows the students to create casual and social games that can make room for multiplayer gaming.
“The software comes with a tutorial similar to the one you see in Microsoft Office,” Willis said. “The software says that within 30 minutes you may begin writing your first video game, but no, in 30 minutes we already had created our very first game…there is no stopping them.”
From the moment class begins, the classroom becomes a professional conference of young developers coming together to form ideas for the latest, most innovative, videogame creation.
“A good video game takes from a week to a few months to create because I have to master the software,” said Esteban Ramirez-Fabela, a 10-year-old student from CCISD. “I’ve created multiplayer games by learning programming and have downloaded at home as well to work on my games.”
While explaining the details of each of his games to reporters, Ramirez-Fabela allowed his audience to win, a gesture that was clearly noticed and appreciated by the parents and members of the media present.
“I really enjoy helping others and answering questions about my games,” Ramirez-Fabela said. “I like being able to share my knowledge and give advice to my classmates.”
Mary Cooper-Flores is a fourth grade teacher at CCISD and the proud parent of Aidan Cooper, a 10-year-old student in the gifted and talented video gaming course.
“I was a gifted and talented specialist before going back into the classroom, “ Cooper-Flores said. “Every year I had kids that would go to UHCL for their classes and I have always been impressed with the excitement and the level of energy displayed by the students.”
As a parent, Cooper-Flores heard stories about the activities that take place in the classroom but never had the opportunity to witness it firsthand, before the event.
“It is mind-blowing to see that a 10-year-old has the ability and the exposure to learn something like this,” Cooper-Flores said. “It requires a different level of thinking to design video games; it allows the students to deal with problem solving.”
These children will someday be professionals who will be able to accomplish difficult tasks due to the evolution of technology in the classrooms, such as Willis’ at UHCL. A large group of gifted and talented children are already taking the role of designers, scientists, engineers and video game developers, proving to the academic community the need to possess innovative skills.
“We better ramp up our programs because this is our next generation,” Willis said. “The students are coming in more aware of their surroundings; classes are going to have to evolve and be more challenging… certainly open ended, where they can take learning to the levels that they need to.”
Video shot and edited by Lauren Lowry: The Signal.