As kids and teens return to the classroom, some for the first time since the pandemic hit in 2020, parents and educators are concerned about how the children will interact with each other and their teachers. A new initiative from Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of Hasbro, hopes to provide a platform using the roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons for social activities and educational learning. In celebration of the release of a new starter set, Wizards will provide Dungeons & Dragons-themed classroom materials for teachers across the country to add to their curriculum.
On top of that, schools, libraries, community centers and enrichment organizations can receive the D&D Afterschool Kit, which includes everything needed to start or enhance D&D clubs and meetups. Dungeons & Dragons has surged in popularity recently, and educators have taken note of its many benefits in a social learning environment.
“D&D saved my life, I’ve seen it save and change the lives of others, and I watch as it shapes the lives of the children who learn to play in my class,” said Kade Wells, Harrisburg North Middle School ELA Instructor in South Dakota and founder of Building Heroez. “Dungeons & Dragons is the best metacognitive tool for education that I’ve seen. The reading growth observed and measured in my class clearly indicates the great things D&D can do in schools. My students’ test score growth doubled each time they tested.”
“I use Dungeons & Dragons both in my classroom and as an after school extracurricular with students from grades 3 to 8,” said Emilie Rayner, an Elementary School Teacher in Ontario, Canada. “In class, I asked my students to go around the table and use a few words to describe Dungeons & Dragons to peers who had not heard of it. The words they chose were: ‘telling a story together’, ‘making friends’, ‘sharing jokes’, ‘solving puzzles’, ‘battling monsters’, ‘being heroes’ and ‘creating crazy characters.’ I think this perfectly describes the fun, whimsical, collaborative, problem-solving that is Dungeons & Dragons.”
When playing Dungeons & Dragons, participants create characters from fantasy archetypes like the honorable paladin or the sneaky rogue. Then one player called the Dungeon Master leads the narration of a collaborative story that challenges the heroes to accomplish a thrilling task, such as defeating a villain or finding a lost treasure.
“The experience of building a [D&D] character, taking that character through adventures, [and then] struggling along with that character, is a great way to develop skills teachers strive to foster like creativity, teamwork, and perseverance in the face of adversity,” said Lizz Simpson, a middle school librarian, teacher and games club advisor from Sudbury, Massachusetts. “The rules and the materials help build literacy, numeracy, and even social pragmatics outside of a formal classroom setting.”
By its very nature, D&D fosters collaboration and problem solving while helping to build empathy and self-confidence in its players. Kids each take on a unique role, take turns, and have to work together to accomplish a common goal, and the memories can last a lifetime. D&D players never forget how they banded together to convince the goblins to be friendly or slaying the dragon that’s been stealing their food.
In addition to the numerous social, emotional, and creative benefits Dungeons & Dragons provides, kids get hands-on practice with math, reading, and writing. In the classroom, the new teaching kits aimed for grades 4-6 and 6-8 offer a way for educators to incorporate D&D into their lesson plans, reinforcing language arts, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills all while having fun going on an adventure.
“With a bit of patience and a set of polyhedral dice, a roleplaying game like Dungeons & Dragons can transform the classroom for young people,” said Antero Garcia, Associate Professor, Stanford University. “Trying on new identities, collaborating with peers to create and explore new worlds, and building unforgettable adventures: these kinds of activities blend academic skills and social development in ways that just might be nothing less than life changing.”
Wizards has the tools for anyone to start or enhance a D&D club and introduce kids to the World’s Greatest Roleplaying Game. The Afterschool Club Kit includes a copy of the recently released D&D Starter Set: Dragons of Stormwreck Isle, instructions and guidelines for club organizers, a quick demo and learn-to-play guide for Dungeon Masters, easy-to-read character cards, a poster to advertise your club, and flyers all at no cost.
“D&D hones critical thinking and problem-solving — it’s one of the few activities that prompts students to solve high-stakes problems in a low-stakes environment,” said Zac Clay, D&D Club volunteer in the Bay Area. “Whether a student is into art, math, science, writing, or otherwise, D&D gives them an opportunity to experiment with their favorite skills while also developing new ones.”
“I have never seen students push themselves to read the way I have with Dungeons & Dragons,” said Rayner. “They beg me to get more books for the classroom and at recess, I see small groups of students from differing grades reading the books together and taking notes. I’m not sure there is any other activity that gets students to choose to take notes from books, usually above their grade level, during recess!”
Additional resources and advice for bringing D&D into schools are available online, including helpful videos introducing D&D and how to play, as well as additional educational resources including a series of webinars in partnership with the International Literacy Association on how Dungeons & Dragons can be used as a powerful learning tool to enhance your classroom curriculum. The new D&D Starter Set: Dragons of Stormwreck Isle is currently available exclusively at Target in North America and will be released widely in several languages and countries starting on Oct. 4.
Images via Dungeons & Dragons
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