George Lucas Educational Foundation

Student Mentors Teach Game Design

In Be The Game, high school students mentor peers and use game design as a tool for teaching science, technology, engineering, and math, and the program's high tech bus travels to locations where tech facilities are not available.
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Share

Teacher: Whoa, we have like, too many people.

Student: Check that.

Teacher: We have GameMaker on a couple of flash drives.

Narrator: The seemingly chaotic fun scene is actually a carefully monitored learning environment, where advanced students from McKinley High School are paid to teach others how to play and build games.

Rick: My name is Rick Kelsey, and my position her at McKinley, is STEM Director, which is Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. I'm also the Director of The Institute of Urban Game Design, which is a program funded by George Mason, and the National Science Foundation, where we've taught over 1,000 students from 150 different schools, around Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia, and they've all learned how to make video games, with computer science, 3D modeling, and animation.

Student: The little icon above it.

Kevin: We are looking at using collaboration and mentoring as a part of delivering and teaching STEM content. Typically, you would have an instructor who may have 20 students in a classroom, and it's difficult for that one instructor to serve 20 students. So what we've done is, we've trained students who are already familiar with the technology.

Justin: This object right here, this clown, it would have--

Kevin: In the summer, we actually take them through a two week session, where we teach them how to become mentors, provide support, give them encouragement. And so we have a cadre of mentors that are then positioned in the classroom to assist the instructors.

Justin: So hit F5.

Kevin: From our preliminary results, what we are seeing, is that on both sides, we see benefits. Students are benefiting because they get immediate feedback, immediate assistance.

Student: Save this right now, and save it in any file you want.

Kevin: The mentors are benefiting because they are continually rehearsing and going over skills that they have learned, because you know, you don't really learn something until you have to teach it.

Student: I clicked him.

Student: But you haven't added the code yet, so nothing is going to happen.

Student: Those are just different shortcut menus.

Alice: I just love this idea of students becoming more specialized in something. From early on, knowing that becoming more specialized in any field will lead to getting paid, and getting paid even more, so it's a great part of the model.

Gary: How you doing?

I started out as a parent volunteer, and I was there when the program was in its infancy. I saw the value of the program immediately in his enthusiasm with regard to his homework. I got more and more involved, so I would man the desk, for roll, I'd tell the kids to stop running in the hallway, I'd go get snacks, I'd do whatever it took, just to keep the program going. And now I've been instrumental in helping the D.C. Public School System roll out a technology bus, where we can take STEM programs and education to the students, and not only just to the students, but to our citizens.

Narrator: The bus will soon be outfitted with computer workstations and flat screen TVs. Today, students use laptops to test a new version of the NSF funded game, called, "Immune Attack."

Chris: This game has a lot of educational value packed in it, because I'm not a biology major, and I'm learning things by playing "Immune Attack." This is so detailed, first of all, it talks about monocytes, and things in the body that most people don't know about. And they've integrated it into a video game. It's a great way to learn.

Justin: It was an ear infection you're trying to destroy, there are these little green-- I think that's one of them right there.

Kevin: Many of our mentors are tech savvy. They already know the software, they're great with the technology, and so their natural inclination is to just do it.

Justin: It's different when you explain the game, than when you're actually, like, playing it, because I'm trying to just tell her, and if I got on, I could just do it, but--

Kevin: So we have to say, no, you don't want to do it for them, you want to make this student have success, and you want to push them or guide them in that way, but if you just do it, then they don't have a chance to see that they can do it themselves.

Justin: But you'll know when you see them, they're--

It's just kind of interesting that-- you feel good, when you're able to, like, kind of teach someone something, and to feel passion about that.

Careful, careful, careful.

Student: I'm doing it.

Narrator: For more information about, What Works in Public Education, go to

Get Video
Embed Code Embed Help

You are welcome to embed this video, download it for personal use, or use it in a presentation for a conference, class, workshop, or free online course, so long as a prominent credit or link back to Edutopia is included. If you'd like more detailed information about Edutopia's allowed usages, please see the Licenses section of our Terms of Use.


Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis

Coordinating Producer

  • Lauren Rosenfeld


  • Christa Collins

Production Support

  • Amy Erin Borovoy

Production Assistant

  • Doug Keely

Camera Crew

  • Brian Buckley
  • Brett Wiley
  • James Pride
  • Ken Ellis


  • Kris Welch

Senior Video Editor

  • Karen Sutherland


STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics): The four academic disciplines considered the core technological underpinnings of an advanced society, according to the National Research Council and the National Science Foundation.

Game Maker: A software application that allows its users to easily develop computer games without having to learn a complex programming language.



Discussion Questions

1. What do you think of the game-design work at McKinley? What would it take to start a similar program in your community?

2. What is the value of having mentors help students design games? How would you find similar mentors in your community?

3. Is game design a valid educational pursuit? Why, or why not?

4. What do you think of the Technology Bus? Is this a good way to help students learn STEM subjects?




Comments (2) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Michelle Dunn's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a recent graduate of the Commonwealth institute of parent leadership with STEM. I think that this is a wonderful way to incorporate STEM daily!!!!

Allie Patchell's picture
Allie Patchell
Parent of two kindergarten girls.

I have a cousin who had access to expensive computers and never showed an interest in learning programming or web design or anything else that might help him find a good job. Then one day his Computer Science teacher was about to give up on him and asked what he likes about computers. My cousin said games so his teacher tried to make his courses useful for games. Now my cousin is one of the best games developer at a pretty big firm. He just needed to earn his keep by doing something he really likes. I think this will really work for the kids in that class. I for one don't know what to do with one of my daughters. She likes swords. What do you think she'll be when she grows up?

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.