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Young Garfield Heights students growing gardens in virtual world to help learn real-life skills

Ussin video game WFT
Posted at 3:47 PM, Jun 17, 2024

News 5 is following through on the next chapter of a game-based learning platform in Garfield Heights, which is putting down roots in the school system.

Strawberries, blackberries, and oranges. Those are just some delicious foods students at Maple Leaf Elementary School are learning to grow.

“I’m in the garden, and I’m going to plant some of these apple seeds,” said 10-year-old fourth grader Bria Arnold as she played a video game called Heroic Game Day in school.

She said she loves the missions.

Heroic Game Day is a game-based learning platform on a Chromebook for third through fifth graders. It is like Roblox or Minecraft and teaches students various social, emotional, and educational skills.

Other players seen running around in the game and tending to the garden are classmates playing along.

Garfield Heights City Schools was among the first districts to adopt The Heroes League.

We were there in 2022 for a statewide kick-off, and now we are following through with the growth it’s experiencing in the district.

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“This is kale,” said fourth grader Nylah Williams as she tended to the garden in the classroom.

The game-based learning platform has  grown since my last visit. They now grow certain flowers, veggies, and herbs in their classroom.

“Did you ever think you’d be planting in school,” I asked.

“No,” the kids said.

This year, the school added a farm to Heroic Game Day. 

“If you click on the seed, it shows you the images on how they grow,” explained Bria.

The game teaches the students how to plant a virtual garden. They learn about pH levels and growing cycles. Then, they apply all that knowledge to plant a garden in the classroom that they tend to.

“It’s taught me a lot of responsibility and how to take care of things the right way,” said Nylah.

The kids have even sampled the veggies and herbs they’ve grown. 

“When I found out like, ‘Wow, this came from dirt in the ground, and now I’m eating it,’” exclaimed one little boy about his favorite part.

“I’ve been with these students for three years, and I’ve seen them progress every year, and I think a big part of that is the Heroes League Program that we use,” said Dr. Tom Price, assistant principal.

Price said this year, there’s been a significant reduction in behavioral issues and tremendous increases in teamwork in the classroom. 

“We just got back our state test scores, they’ve improved across every grade level, and every subject area,” he said. “Our fourth graders nearly doubled their ELA performance this year.”

Price also told us that because of this success, they’re planning a farm-to-fork program at the high school.

“Where they’re going to have agricultural programs within the high school,” said Price.

I visited at the end of the school year. So, some of the herbs and veggies the students had grown were going home with them, while the beautiful flowers they grew would be replanted outside their school.

And Bria told me she’ll continue to garden at home with her family this summer.

“We’re going to plant some watermelons in the back,” she said. “It’s going to be our first time. So, this game’s actually helping me a lot.”

Heroic Game Day is helping almost 200 third and fourth graders in Garfield Heights take home their Chromebooks for the summer so they can continue playing the game with their classmates, which the company monitors to maintain positive interactions.

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