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Elmwood Elementary students help develop online video game

George Klink's fourth grade class at Elmwood Elementary works its way through the various chapters of the recently released online video game they helped develop and play test, Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case. Jordan Willi / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case follows Jo Wilder as she attempts to solve a variety of mysteries and learns about the history of the state of Wisconsin. The game was released by Wisconsin Public Television Education on Oct. 10. Jordan Willi / RiverTown Multmiedia2 / 3
Elmwood Elementary fourth graders enjoyed being part of the development and play testing of Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case, including: (from left) Camren Hokenson, Maxwell Dohmen, Jessica Albers, Payton Bleskacek and Simon Loga. Jordan Willi / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

The Oct. 10 release of the online video game Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case on WPTeducation.org not only gave elementary level students a new way to have fun while learning at school, but it also put Elmwood Elementary on the map throughout the state.

Fourth grade teacher George Klink, along with a number of his students, contributed to the development and testing of the game over the last two years.

"When we started this project, I was teaching fifth grade, which was two years ago. The kids were instrumental in giving thoughts about where things were that didn't seem to operate correctly ... as well as the music and a lot of other parts of the game," Klink said. "How exciting is it that a school like Elmwood was chosen to be part of this? I had no idea what the process was going to be. Certainly, the time that they put into it has shown that they came up with a really great project. To have our say on anything of this nature is really pretty spectacular."

Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case, which is set in and around the Wisconsin State Capitol, is another tool educators can use to teach history while giving students the chance to be "history detectives" in the middle of the action.

"What we did to help with the game was we took a test to see if we would make any changes and what we liked about the game," said student Tessa Asher. "In the game, you learn about history through the tasks and clues the game gives you. You use that information to complete missions and tests."

Produced by Wisconsin Public Television (WPT) Education and Field Day Lab — an educational game developer within the University Wisconsin-Madison's Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) — along with a cohort of teachers and students from around the state, the game is designed to cover Wisconsin Academic Standards for grades 3-5 in social studies, English language arts and information and technology literacy.

"The game gave really good directions on what the artifacts were, where you needed to go and what you needed to get," said Macie Garfield.

It also allows students to use their detective skills to solve mysteries about real artifacts from Wisconsin's history and use evidence to prove their discoveries.

"I learned that there are many parts to a museum and that there are a lot of things to do to make sure you have everything in the right place," said student Payton Bleskacek. "It was fun to be part of this game and get to try it out. I feel like it is one of my favorite games, especially for being a game we can play at school."

As the students make their way through the game, they will discover primary source materials while also engaging in investigation, identification, corroboration and contextualization of evidence with their primary sources.

"You have to make your way around the inside of buildings and talk to the main character's grandpa and other people throughout the museum and the city," said Asher.

To win each challenge, players must summarize the evidence and argue their case.

"We played the game a few times now. I finished it once at home and I am on my second time through now," said Jessica Albers.

According to WPT's Director of Education Alyssa Tsagong, the collaborative design process that brought teachers, historians, game developers and public media together has led to a "playful entry point" for students to learn what it takes to be a historian.

Students in Klink's fourth grade class have enjoyed their time play testing and learning throughout the development of Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case.

"What I basically did was click on random spots to move around and find things. I also looked in the notebook every time I needed something or to find information," said Camren Hokenson. "You learned a lot of really good things about Wisconsin in the game."

Teachers involved in the game's creation praise the ways that both the design process and the finished product have inspired their students.

"When I was there, I was taken with the thought process that they had to put this all together. It was phenomenal to see them in action," said Klink. "One thing that I believe is important is that the game has really great correlation to the state standards for social studies. I think that is critical so that teachers can see that it does meet the standards and not have to do a lot of creating to fit it into their curriculum."

Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case is available to play online for free at WPTeducation.org.

"When you got to the end of the game, seeing the screen say that Elmwood Elementary had helped with the game was really cool, because we are not a big school or town. And yet, we were one of the first schools and groups of kids to try out the game," Asher said.

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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