Adventure Paths - Traveling Your Own Road to Mastery

Hey everyone! Welcome back!  It’s been awhile since the last post, but with the holidays (filled with family & some visits to the doctor), getting prepped for a new semester, and assessing student argumentative essays, the blog has taken a bit of a backseat.  But I’m back this week to talk about Adventure Paths! This idea came from Adam Powley (@MrPowley), a fellow gamified teacher and post he wrote about creating ways for students to navigate through a course by taking on challenges, and traveling a unique path toward mastery of the skills and content we teach.  Adam envisioned a similar setup to Super Mario Bros. 3, where each unit was like a separate world and each task would be a level. Those who are in the “gamification world” could incorporate the earning/using of items and badges to allow students to blaze their own trails through the unit.

I loved every bit of this idea!  So in my typical “cannonball in” mindset, I set to work.  I knew I needed to replace my National Parks project idea with something else, but wasn’t sure where to go, but then Adam’s post hit me and I began looking for ways to design it in my 19th Century American History class.  After a couple of days tweaking the tasks and working through the logistics of how to manage those on the path and those who weren’t, I came up with a very quick and dirty design for my first Adventure Path. As you can see from this link, it is simply a Google Slide with links to specific pages on my Journey Into The Past website and other Google Slides that explain the tasks to students.  To keep it simple this first time, I simply made the path two steps longer than the “standard path” by adding two Fortune and Glory Quests to the end of it, the last one being an escape room style activity using content they had learned throughout the unit. Not spectacular, but for a first run, I was pretty pleased with myself. I hid the slide with the steps in the path within a Google Form that forces students to sign on to the path before they know what the challenges or the reward at the end will be, adding an air of mystery to the idea.

Then came the time to sell it.  I went back to one of my strengths, telling stories from history.  I brought “Dr. Jones” back to tell the story & background info of 1850s America as the students sat on the floor with a campfire playing on the screen behind me under dim lighting.  I said very little about the path that day, only noting that it existed and was path that would challenge them beyond what they thought they could do. The next day I explained how to access it and reminded them that once you signed in, you were committed.  You had to complete the tasks to receive the reward, there was no turning back.

I was blown away!  48 of my 113 students signed up!  Several have already completed the two Fortune and Glory Quests, and are well on their way to finishing the path.  I know many will not complete the path, but the fact that so many were up for a challenge impressed me! I’ve loved watching my students try to solve the clues for the escape room.  This has me sold on this as a strategy to push students beyond their comfort zones to get to the experience of learning, and most importantly, to get back to joy of it. I’m currently working on how to design different tasks for the adventure path that will still address the same standards as on the standard path, particularly for our next unit on the Civil War and Reconstruction.  I’m working on designing a RPG-style path for the Civil War where students will have to make choices as though they are leading either the Union or Confederacy during the war. The focus would be on understanding how choices made in the war would have later consequences and analyzing the context of those decisions. It’s still a work in progress, but ultimately, I would love to have them navigate a map of the war with links to important locations and choices.

In the end, I’ve found adventure paths can be a great way to motivate, engage, and challenge students in their learning process.  The students have all expressed how fun it was to solve the clues for the escape room, to work through the process at their own pace and feel the energy and excitement of a challenge.  That to me has been the real joy, and one I hope continues for future adventures!

Summit Seeker(s) of the Week: This week I’m shouting out an amazing educator I get to work with in my Social Studies PLC: Amy Walker. Amy is a 7th grade teacher at my school who not only delivers amazing instruction to her students, she also helps plan and lead our professional development days!  Every time I get to observe her teaching I come away impressed with how she challenges her students to “Reach their Peak” as we say at The Summit. Whether it is designing engaging lessons, pushing students to produce high-level work using historical thinking skills, or simply being a positive personality during those winter doldrums, Amy flat out brings it everyday!  I’m so grateful I get to work with such an amazing educator You can follow Amy on Twitter @MrsWalkerOPS.

World 1 Map from Super Mario Bros. 3

World 1 Map from Super Mario Bros. 3