I have always loved incorporating game-based elements and principles into my culinary arts classes. There is an energy and excitement that is created when students are engaged in playing a game. Creating class competitions like "Chopped" or "Cupcake Wars" allows students to take the skills that they've learned and create something unique and amazing. Adding components like mystery baskets and surprise ingredients produces an element of surprise and challenge that encourages problem-solving and collaboration among students. Inviting teachers, staff, and administrators into the classroom to judge encourages students to step up their game; but also to show off their skills. Often students that shine in my class may struggle in their core subjects, so giving them the opportunity to share with a broader audience is vitally important.
Last year, I was inspired by gamification guru, Michael Matera, at Miami Device where he lead a session on game-inspired course design. I was blown away by his gamified approach to education and knew I had to learn more. When I returned from Miami Device, I continued to research gamification and by spring semester I had decided to take gamification to the next level by creating a game in my Culinary Arts 2 class that lasted an entire quarter. The biggest challenge for me was where to start....it was overwhelming to say the least. Though I loved the idea of creating a game-based learning environment, I wasn't sure how to set it up.
Michael's suggestion was to first start with a theme. It just so happened that about that time I was going to be gone for a 3 day conference and was planning to show the movie "The 100 Foot Journey" that connected to standards we were going to be learning in class. When thinking about the storyline, I realized it could be a great theme for a game. In the movie, the main character is chasing after his passion for cooking and is on a mission to earn 3 Michelin stars in the process. I had found my starting point! Students would be on a quest for 3 Michelin stars!
Once my theme was chosen, everything began falling into place. Students were formed into teams and they chose restaurant names. Throughout the course of the quarter, I created challenges and developed badges such as, "Restaurant Inspector" and "Restaurant Critic". I would have impromptu inspections and restaurant critics would visit and award students badges for the kitchens that were the cleanest or finished recipes that were the best quality. Badges were given different point values and students had to reach a certain amount before they earned each Michelin star. Badges and points were tracked on a huge piece of butcher paper I had up on my bulletin board. Students loved to come into class each day and see where they were in the game and how close they were to the next star. The element of intrigue and surprise as I developed individual and group challenges created a very fun, engaging, yet rigorous learning atmosphere. The best part was I was having fun too! I had a blast coming up with twists in the game and ideas to keep students excited. I created many opportunities for students to earn badges that appealed to different personality types and motivations. This encouraged all students and motivated even the least engaged. It's important to understand that I didn't have this all figured out from the beginning. It is a work in process and I'm developing as I go. If I would have waited till it was all planned and perfect, it would have never happened. Honestly, even if it was planned out most likely I would have made changes.
I'M A BELIEVER
After one quarter of gamifying my classroom, I was hooked. I knew that this was something that I needed to develop further. The degree of collaboration, problem solving, and engagement that was happening was exciting. Students were more motivated to learn than I'd ever witnessed before and were doing more than was even required to earn their Michelin Stars. I loved that they were learning and having fun in the process! This year, I have expanded my gamification to Culinary Arts 3. We are well underway in The Amazing Food Truck Race where students are racing across the country from Medford, Maine to Medford, Oregon in their food truck to learn about the different regions of US cuisine. Look for my next post as I explain the game in further detail. Stay tuned!!
EXPLORE LIKE A PIRATE
If you are interested in learning more about gamification, look for Michael Matera's first book that came out yesterday on Amazon: Explore Like a Pirate and follow him on Twitter @mrmatera. He is an amazing educator and has many ideas to gamify any class at any grade level. If I can do it in my classroom, you can do it in yours!!
Culinary teacher & Discovery School Lead in Southern Oregon, passionate about finding innovative ways to make learning magical for students. Love to gamify!