Best Games for Back to School

For so many of us, August represents the changing tides and it captures the beautiful, fleeting moments of summer before the fall school year starts as students plan for back to school.  For others, August may dawn that phase of a slower work season, as many can tend to take their annual, idyllic vacation and time off with family and friends. Living in Southern California throughout my childhood blessed me with incredible weather. This naturally encourages people like me who love nature to adventure outdoors and take advantage of the revitalizing energy nature offers.  

Best Games for Back to School
Photo from Pexel

After long summer days at the beach with friends, basketball games and roller-skating with the family, summer nights involved playing our favorite video games. There was almost an inexplicable feeling that video games gave me at the end of a physically exhausting day. Spending an hour or two playing video games with loved ones gave me a feeling of connectivity, determination, and feeling accomplished as I worked through hurdles in my current game. 

Those who may not delve into the magic of games may see defeating a game boss or solving a puzzle in a game as insignificant. To me, progress in a video game reminds me that I challenge myself to think outside of the box and to look at the game obstacle from different angles (which is good for the brain too).  

 August for many signal vacation season or a new school season. Whether you are heading off on a trip, heading off to work, or heading off to school, the life lessons and information we experience in playing video games prepares us for the classroom of life. 

Four Life Lessons from your Console

As I’ve grown, I’ve come to revere video games for deeper sentimental reasons, one of which includes the valuable life lessons video games teach me. A healthy addition of playing video games once a day or even once a week sharpens my critical thinking skills. In my earliest years of playing video games, I realized my strength of determination.  

video game controllers
Photo from Pexel

Something as peripheral as gaming revealed a significant character trait I recognize to this day.  

Thus, I believe that each one of us can take lasting, valuable life lessons from the games we play. This article from LifeHack gives 7 life lessons that we can learn from the best games for back to school, three of which include: 

  • “Hours of frustration can turn into a glorious moment of joy” 
  • “You’ll find rare gems in the strangest of places” 
  • “You need to tackle a problem from multiple angles” 

One of the benefits of long-term gaming is gaining skills for real-life scenarios. It’s great to spark visual and mental creativity via gaming, but how that translates to everyday context is more valuable.  

For example, Ranker gives us a list of 13 video games that provide “real-world skills”. I find the Kerbal Space Program designed and executed by SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk to be the most fascinating and inspiring on this list. The Kerbal Space Program sets up players to build and strengthen their individual space program in order to launch and explore distant planets. Since the world’s orbit information technology in this game is so accurate, gamers are learning actual rocket science criteria. 

How cool is that?! 

Best Games for Back to School

Certain video game characters have a legacy of teaching life truths, useful information, and facts you can use in the classroom to prepare for school subjects like history, science, geography, and humanities and world cultures.  As a strong female detective, Nancy Drew has had over 90 years of cases – so we can honestly say, “I learned it from Nancy Drew!” 

Nancy’s innate curiosity to discover and travel in unknown territories influenced me in college as I was applying to international study abroad programs. I gained admission to my undergraduate abroad program in Switzerland, where I felt like a Nancy-esque adventurer, finding the hidden gems and histories of the Swiss countryside. The mysterious mountains made me think the Swiss Alps would be a great location for Nancy Drew to solve a case! 

Nancy Drew Deadly Device

History lessons are an aspect of Nancy Drew that I admire. For example, Marie Antoinette came to life from the clues hidden in the books from playing Treasure in the Royal Tower. People discuss Tesla as a supercar launched into space or a car they drive to support sustainable energy. Having played The Deadly Devicethe video game introduced me to the achievements of Nikola Tesla, the Serbian-American inventor and futurist best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current electricity supply system. The game combined science with a really great mystery to solve.  

Do you have a favorite “I learned it from Nancy Drew” moment or game that is great for fun back to school learning you would recommend?  

Historic Salem sign
Photo from Salem Web
hathorne house
A side-by-side of the Salem, Massachusetts graveyard where historical figure Justice John Hathorne lies, and the Midnight in Salem scene of The Hathorne House. This clip reveals the connections in the video game to Salem’s past: Nancy Drew’s Midnight in Salem game was heavily inspired and driven by significant historical figures in the Salem Witch Trial era.

Working from Multiple Angles 

Seeing how video games teach us life lessons conveys that video games don’t have an age limit. My favorite lesson on the above list is: “you need to tackle a problem from multiple angles.” Tetris is the video game that comes to mind when I reflect on this lesson. Tackling a visuospatial task with a time limit forces us to use our creativity at a quick pace. Allotting a few minutes each day to play a fun game like Tetris can grow the right side of the brain, which includes strengths like intuition, creativity, imagination, and feeling. And, as long as I am able to, I want to strengthen that side of my brain.  

Show image of Tetris and Fortnite 

Teacher Chris Aviles shares in his article how game based learning works in the classroom and lists 10 great games for back to school, including Fortnite for writing prompts and math.   

The value of teamwork is another lesson that GameStacy writes about. With so many games having an online interface, avid gamers have been able to meet players from around the world, which can grow knowledge of other cultures and build interpersonal skills. Games really unite us all! 

Young Learners: Video games in the Classroom 

In the academic years of my childhood and my adulthood, August always entailed back-to-school shopping (SO many colored pencils were purchased), summer reading for my upcoming classes, getting ahead on class syllabi to feel confident on my first day, and lots of family dinners to commemorate a new school year. One reason I prepared so eagerly is that it’s never too early to get into a learning or classroom headspace.  

Kids playing video games
Photo from Pexel

Learning in the classroom has an entirely different” look “these days. In my four university years, I saw how technology became more integral to my education courses per semester.  The past year has shown how integral technology and video game learning is to engage students when learning in the virtual classroom. As technology and software continue to remain in the classroom environment, video games will also remain. All of us are unique in how we learn and observe. Thus, I believe we should accommodate those differences by using games to teach, alongside books and the written word.  

Teach Starter writes how implementing video games in the classroom for younger ages can be tricky to balance and maintain, but using these video games early on has positive effects such as: 

  • “Positive participation” (students’ willingness to collectively participate in class lessons) 
  • “Student attentiveness”  
  • “Smaller Stress” (Video games offer a less text-heavy and stressful mode of learning) 

Consequently, organizations and foundations have made the effort to establish programs that teach students skills like science, math, etc. through non-traditional routes of learning. Video games in the classroom are becoming a widespread practice that could revolutionize the way young kids learn. 

Seeing the inspiration video games give kids in the classroom should encourage us all to support this new educational gaming movement. 

Summer Slugger Program: The ESA Foundation  

Specifically, ESA’s “Summer Slugger” Program provides Los Angeles County students STEM-oriented learning opportunities via video games during the summer break. This program not only teaches kids important criteria in the learning off-season, but these video games are teaching children the life lessons like teamwork and determination that are mentioned prior. More individuals are now seeing the power that video games in the classroom and outside of the classroom hold. That’s why this program is backed by massive sponsors such as EVERFI and even Major League Baseball (MLB). 

As the summer season is starting to wind down, a daily dose of gaming can help prepare our brains for the busy school or work season ahead. Solving puzzles, learning history lessons, and using critical thinking in our favorite games is a multifaceted benefit. There are lots of fun and engaging ways to keep your brain sharp before you step into the classroom.  

What are some fun lessons and facts you have learned from Nancy Drew and playing the games?  

~ SB

As seen on CBS News, FOX, and CBS News

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