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CODE WRITE DRAW
A VIDEO GAME DESIGN AND NOVELLA WRITING PROGRAM FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS
CODE WRITE DRAW provides transformational out-of-school-time learning experiences for middle school students by building tangible STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) skills in a motivational learning environment.
10 - 14
4 - 8
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CODE WRITE DRAW’s unique approach integrates computer science, creative writing, and the digital arts to engage middle school students in a personal journey that fosters self-efficacy and inspires their continuous learning inside and outside the classroom. We use the power of storytelling and the Hero’s Journey narrative to challenge students to create a journey of their own. Students produce a video game, write an original novella based on their personal Hero’s Journey, and use industry-standard digital art technology to illustrate their novellas. Throughout the program, students also build foundational math skills mastery through interactive drills and inspirational challenges.
What’s innovative about our approach is that we bring a fierce commitment to building tangible, specific STEAM skills in the context of a boundless and imaginative personal Hero’s Journey. We focus both on the foundational aspects of STEAM – the challenging experience of skill building through deliberate practice – and on the motivational aspects of STEAM through video game design and personal narratives, using industry-standard tools that students can continue to use after the program ends.
In this program, we focus on the Hero’s Journey and challenge the students to create a journey of their own.
For middle school students struggling academically, a STEAM career may seem out of reach. Research has shown that 6th-grade students lacking foundational math skills are much less likely to graduate high school on time. Programs for middle schoolers are in a unique position to reach and reengage students before they are at risk of dropping out. Out-of-school-time programs can play an especially critical role in developing students’ interest and tangible skills in STEAM education, which can set young people on track for long-term academic and professional success.
Yet there are currently few good alternatives for summer programs that can engage middle school students. But what if we could change the trajectory for struggling middle school students by focusing on foundational skill building and fostering a drive for continuous learning through STEAM activities?
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WHY STEAM FOR STRUGGLING STUDENTS?
Middle school STEAM programs offer one of the last pivotal opportunities for intervention for struggling students:
One study of more than 13,000 students concluded that only 13% of 6th graders who fail math will graduate high school on time. (1)
STEAM programs provide aspirational environments to build the critical noncognitive skills necessary for success:
Research demonstrates the importance of these skills, especially for underserved middle school students. (2)
Attending high‐quality STEAM program yields STEAM‐specific benefits:
Improved attitudes toward STEAM fields and careers;
Increased STEAM knowledge and skills; and
Higher likelihood of graduation and pursuing a STEAM career. (3)
THEORY OF CHANGE
Tangible STEAM Skill Building + Noncognitive Skill Building in an Inspirational STEAM Experience = Changed Academic Trajectory for Struggling Middle School Students
Comparative mythology researcher Joseph Campbell popularized the concept of the “Hero’s Journey” as the common story across cultures of a hero who goes on an adventure, faces tests and trials, and returns home changed. The “Hero’s Journey” serves as the thematic framework for the CODE WRITE DRAW program modules and provides an integrated narrative student experience.
CODE WRITE DRAW is a project of the Social Good Fund. Our program is based on nearly 20 years of experience operating TutorWorks Academic Services, a social enterprise business with a demonstrated track record of providing high quality academic intervention to over 25,000 students in 140 California school districts since 2001. CODE WRITE DRAW’s program design builds on TutorWorks’ field-tested approach to preparing students at all levels to succeed, using research-based online curricula and personalized instruction to transform students’ long-term academic success.
CODE WRITE DRAW began in 2013 as a creative writing and manga art summer intervention program, using the Hero’s Journey as a thematic framework. In 2018, a new iteration of the program added video game design and foundational math skills mastery to the experience. We are now trying to make this opportunity available to more deserving young people as a nonprofit endeavor because we believe that experiences like this can transform lives. CODE WRITE DRAW is pursuing strategic partnerships with school districts, universities, corporate sponsors, and local industry professionals to leverage public and private resources, scale the program, and build a shared sense of accountability for student outcomes.