eSports: A Middle School Model

SVRTC Members joined on Wednesday, October 18, 2023 for their monthly meeting. Attendance included 21 members from 15 school divisions: Amelia County Public Schools, Brunswick County Public Schools, Cumberland County Public Schools, Danville Public Schools, Dinwiddie County Public Schools, Colonial Heights Public Schools, Franklin City Schools, Greensville County Public Schools, Halifax County Public Schools, Henry County Public Schools, Lunenburg County Public Schools, Mecklenburg County Public Schools, Petersburg City Public Schools, Pittsylvania County Public Schools, Prince Edward County Public Schools.

The program was presented by Amanda Kinsler, an Innovative Learning Coach at Tuckahoe Middle School in Henrico County Public Schools. Kinsler described to members how she facilitated an eSports Team in three middle schools with funding from a grant. The eSports Team was developed to target specific students that were considered chronically absent. Kinsler and her team wanted those students to have a reason to come to school and gave them individualized invitations to join the club. They also recruited students that were outside of that demographic to join the club. They wanted to make sure that a lot of the students that were in the club were using the club as their extracurricular activity. 

Through the grant funding, the school purchased two Nintendo Switch consoles, two Joysticks (with cords and cradles), and two games: Mario Kart and Super Smash Brothers,. They also received eight controllers and a lockable cart for the entire system. Because the demand for the club was so high -(reaching 90 members this year), the school conducted a fundraiser to purchase another console.  

Kinsler recommended several steps for developing an eSports team:  

  • Obtain the support that you need from your teachers and the principal of the school and gauge student interest. 
    • During this step you also have to determine an adequate meeting space for the team with enough technology to cover what you are doing (TV’s or projectors) and have the equipment up and running before the students arrive. 
    • Recruit the students.
  • Survey students.
    • e.g., How do you feel about Mario Kart? Rocket League smash brothers? Are you interested in just playing to have fun and not compete?  
  • Discuss time commitment. 
    • Practice time 
    • Parent approval
    • Appropriate grades (just like for any other sports team)
    • Completed application (including transportation commitments)
  • Running and organizing the practices. 
    • Set (game) rules and expectations (e.g., sportsmanship, collaboration). 
    • Don’t forget snacks!

Kinsler’s presentation was very well received, and some SVRTC divisions are already taking steps to initiate their own middle school eSports programs for their students.

SVRTC 2023- 2024 School Year: Opening Meeting

The opening meeting for the SVRTC 2023-204 school year was held at Longwood University and was attended by 26 people, including those from 13 SVRTC school divisions: Amelia County Public Schools, Buckingham County Public Schools, Brunswick County Public Schools, Colonial Heights Public Schools, Cumberland County Public Schools, Danville Public Schools, Lunenburg County Public Schools, Greensville County Public Schools, Nottoway County Public Schools, Petersburg Public Schools, Prince Edward County Public Schools, Prince George County Public Schools, and Henry County Public Schools.

The meeting had two programs. The first program was presented by Deidre Holmberg from Amazon Web Services (AWS) on their Spark program. Ms. Holmberg explained the AWS Spark program is a free online program designed by teachers to provide school systems with cloud-focused content, tools, and resources. Geared for age 13 and up, the program curriculum is meant to foster student interest in future career cloud computing fields. Each of the units were designed to show students many ways cloud technology is infused into our everyday lives which includes areas like healthcare and sports. Ms. Holmberg said that AWS is working with the Virginia Department of Education to make the different units SOL-friendly for Virginia educators.

Next, Britney Garritano from Vivacity, presented on technology hardware and programs for schools with competitive pricing. Ms. Garritano mentioned that the most competitive prices where on Chromebook bundles. They also offer different types of technology and case options to help school systems maintain their computers. Ms. Garritano also explained to members that Vivacity also offers a Student Repair Academy. Student Repair Academy is an online self-paced learning program that provides students with the knowledge and technical skills they need to operate a student-led repair center for school systems computers. The meeting ended with members winning door prizes provided by Vivacity, as well as enjoying lunch with new and returning SVRTC members.

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