The letters "ITA" superimposed over an image of Bascom Hall

ITA students help 5th graders play out their gaming ideas

From “Burning Revenge” to “Sunny and Dewdrop Adventures”—and all the zombie battles and dungeon quests in between—5th graders at Madison’s Orchard Ridge Elementary School recently got the chance to bring their gaming ideas to life.

With a little help from new friends in UW–‍Madison’s Information Technology Academy (ITA), that is.

An Orchard Ridge 5th grade student explores the menu of games created by ITA students and developed by their classmates
An Orchard Ridge 5th grade student explores the menu of games created by ITA students and developed by their classmates.

As part of the annual ITA “Technology Road Show,” 5th graders at Orchard Ridge brainstormed game ideas—dreaming up game descriptions, drawings and charts outlining the game’s setting, mechanics and components. As the students developed their game proposals, they also mapped out the rules for how you play, win and lose.

With the 5th graders’ proposals in hand, Information Technology Academy Outreach Program Manager AJ Daughtry Krill then brought those ideas to the students in ITA—a UW–‍Madison Division of Information Technology pre-college program serving high school students in the Lac du Flambeau, Madison and Oneida communities.

Using Scratch, a coding community developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the ITA students—ranging in age from 9th to 11th grade—then worked to bring the 5th graders’ visions from schema to screen. In the process, the ITA students stretched and developed their own coding knowledge as they worked with ITA staff from February to May to build the games.

ITA offers its students the opportunity to explore their interests through hands-on technology coursework and projects like the Technology Road Show, as well as college preparatory academics and personal wellness development—all with the goal of supporting the students’ successful completion of high school and entry into higher education.

Orchard Ridge teachers say the gaming experience was an exciting for both students and school staff.

“During the video game creation process and when they got to play their final video game, I saw 5th grade students engage for the whole hour who normally [may] have trouble engaging,” said Madelin Reynolds, Orchard Ridge cross categorical teacher. “I also saw 5th grade students start thinking about doing ITA in high school, which made them excited for their future.”

5th grade teacher Janie Kampschroer echoed the sentiment: “My students were so excited about this project! It was great to see them put their creativity to use and explore ways to make learning fun. I loved watching their faces when they saw their games come to life on the screen! What a wonderful program.”

Check out the students’ games