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Gameworks: Engaging Youth-at-Risk in Career Development

by Madelaine Currelly

Youth-at-risk are a challenging population to engage. In order to improve learning outcomes, we have incorporated the “Gameworks” methodology, an unusual but effective technique for introducing job skills to youth.

Gameworks is a tool that engages youth-at-risk in various activities designed to aid their overall development, fostering skills that are essential for becoming responsible and contributing members of society. Gameworks participants learn without actually feeling like they are learning – and this is done in the context of a board game.

Learning by Doing

Participants are divided into teams and given the task of building a board game from conception to final packaging. The completed games are played in groups and then posted online at www.goratemygame.com so that others can vote on the best game and rate the final product. Players assess the validity of the rules and process of the game.

Gameworks encourages participants to exercise and utilize their creativity while working toward a real life goal in a collaborative environment. They must use critical thinking, assessment, analysis and entrepreneurial skills.

During the building, team members experience first-hand how cooperation is essential to completing a project. If participants have trouble getting along with other team members, they soon realize that in order to complete the project they have to resolve the conflict.

They also come to understand the importance of individual and group needs and that individual needs are not more important than team needs. Practicing negotiation, conducting research and experiencing the pitfalls and successes of the choices they have made, the youth realize that their needs can be met with the help of others.

Gameworks also brings to the surface the skills each participant has to offer the team. They must identify their strengths to help complete the project and develop resiliency as they deal with new situations.

Gameworks is powerful because participants learn by doing and without feeling tasked because of the fun they have in the process.

Learning by Teaching

Each game has a theme, such as career exploration, parenting skills, finance and banking, or job maintenance. Participants conduct research into their theme and incorporate findings into the game, thus teaching themselves the theme content.

In one of our groups, aged 16-28, the theme was career paths and job search for a target audience of Grade 7 and 8 students. The participants developed the board game using a business model that included marketing, advertising, and financial analysis. They presented their games to younger youth for feedback and experienced a great sense of accomplishment when their games were well received by their audience. They also received feedback from the web site where the community voted on the games.

Conclusion

“I have never known what it feels like to do any work. I have never felt so good about myself. This is the best thing that has ever happened to me”
– Gameworks participant

Gameworks helps youth experience first-hand the skills required to be successful in the 21st century job market by teaching them in a creative, engaging way. This approach can be used not only with the youth-at-risk population but with others as well. The small investment required makes it easily accessible to all types of programs. Ultimately, the impact is significant.

Madelaine Currelly is currently the CEO of the Community Training and Development Centre (CTDC) a not-for-profit, affiliated with the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board (KPRDSB) in Canada. Madelaine is the author of “Song of the Soul” a book of children’s social development activities for use by parents and caregivers. She also co-authored “Movabilty” a book of physical activities for pre-school children. If you would like more information please contact Madelaine_Currelly@kprdsb.ca

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