On a quiet Friday evening not so long ago, a group of 15 fifth-graders from Walnut Grove Elementary School sat down at a small wooden table in a corner of Walnut Grove Library. Each was given a green jump drive — a small, hand-held version of their masterpiece.
Their work was revealed when they inserted the drives into laptops. The screens showed the video game they developed together with the guidance of Chris Durr, librarian and Walnut Grove Library branch supervisor. Present for the unveiling were their parents and teachers.
“He just played them before,” said Maria Rosales, the mother of Daniel,
one of the students. “Now he creates and loves it. He knows that if he doesn’t like a game, he can make something better. This has really opened his mind to what’s out there. ”
Consensus among the adults in the room is that these opportunities are not widely available in Walnut Grove. “They’ve learned skills they can take into the real world,” explained Gabino Perez, the students’ teacher for the upcoming school year. “This project has opened a whole new world for them.”
Discovering a new world is an all-too-familiar affair for Chris, the branch supervisor. Once upon a time, he was also met with a lack of potential-building opportunities. “I grew up in a home without a bookshelf,” Chris explained. “Then my dad found the library and I learned of the transformative power of education. Since graduate school, it has always been a goal of mine to bring 21st
century tools to kids through the Library.”
The library game project was made possible due to Chris’ steadfast determination. He sought and procured funding through a grant funded by the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA)
, which is administered in California by the State Librarian.
This is only the beginning. Next Chris will guide a similar project at Bates Elementary School in Courtland, and will follow up with other projects over the course of the next five years. The goal is to continue opening doors for kids.
As the recent launch party was coming to an end, Daniel demonstrated the game to one of his teachers. Chris described the detail of what the kids accomplished from creating actors, music, art assets and conditional statements (or machine thinking) — each incredible part making up the whole to teach the kids about storytelling, project management and technology.
“You may have started something here,” one teacher said to Chris. She then turned to Daniel and asked if game development might be something he wants to do when he grows up.
A shy, but excited smile came across his face and he replied, “Probably.”
This project was supported in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian.
The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services or the California State Library, and no official endorsement by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services or the California State Library should be inferred.