Two kindergarten teachers at Hazen White-St. Francis School earned an inclusive education award for turning their classroom into Super Mario World.
Ellen Higgins and Rhonda Magee based their lesson plan on the popular Nintendo video game franchise. They work with students to set individual goals, then the five-year-olds watch as their characters progress along the board as they meet their learning goals.
The pair were among 13 recipients of the National Inclusive Education Award presented by the New Brunswick Association for Community Living.
Higgins says rather than earning a reward for topping the class, the purpose of the game is to encourage students to move forward at their own speed.
“We have five-year-olds running into the class, begging to work on their goal and move up a level, which we’ve never seen before,” she said. “They truly have developed a growth mindset and are in charge of their own learning. It’s really exciting.”
The classroom has done away with prizes and stickers. Instead, the game is built to motivate children to learn, as opposed to providing a reward at the end of the class.
She says by not rewarding students there is no jealousy or hurt feelings. The children are equally excited by their friend’s progress as their own.
“With this system, everybody feels success and pride in themselves, which is paramount to viewing yourself as a lifelong learner,” said Higgins.
“They’re not relying on getting a toy, or extra recess time. They do it because they want to do it. It really creates great habits for them.”
The Saint John region was well represented among the 2020 award winners. Sheryl Titus in Quispamsis, Wanda MacDonald at Champlain Heights School, and the welding faculty at NBCC Saint John were also recognized.
Teaching at a high priority school like Hazen White, Higgins says it’s critical for teachers to ensure their students’ diverse needs are met in the classroom.
“It’s really up to teachers right now to make sure that everyone’s needs are getting met,” she said. “Involving the students in that is the best way to do it.”
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