A creative way to teach young children about prosocial skills

Submitted 9 years ago
Mieke VanderBorght
Mieke VanderBorght
K–12 school
My Rating

My Take

Cool School Where Peace Rules! Is a cute website designed to teach 5- to 7-year-olds social and problem-solving skills. Children navigate throughout the campus at Cool School and watch short animated videos depicting some kind of conflict among the students (e.g., one student notices that another is copying from her during a test and calls the teacher over). Children must choose from four options to direct how the characters should proceed. Once children click on an option, they watch what happens as the characters act out their choice. If the child did not pick the best option, they are given another chance to try again, which repeats until they make the “right” choice. When they do make the best choice, they receive a certificate for the general concept they learned about (e.g., sharing) and a letter of the alphabet. The goal of the game is to collect all 26 letters. This game was developed through a federal grant by child development researchers and gaming experts, therefore it is not a for-profit operation.

The animation is charming and the scenarios are realistic making Cool School a creative way to teach young children about prosocial skills. Using a computer game to teach these skills is an especially keen choice given the uniquely 21st century opportunities for anti-social behavior (such as cyber bullying). The game is engaging and will certainly capture children’s interest. The set up that allows children to keep playing until they make the morally “right” is especially clever. That way children have an opportunity to explore different response options and see the consequences of making the “wrong” choice without punishing or humiliating them by deducting points or telling them they are wrong. In the end, children will always win a certificate and a letter no matter how many times they tried out the wrong options. However, it is important to note that not all conflict situations are black and white; even in the simple scenarios presented here, there is sometimes more that one appropriate response, even if the game only allows for one “best” option. This could be a good opportunity for discussion about when might a different response be appropriate.
One thing the site lacks is a way to go back and review past scenarios. Certificates and letters collected are kept in the “trophy room” and can always be accessed, but users cannot see or read about the actual scenarios. Teachers might want to review past scenarios if, for example, something similar happens in their classroom and the teacher wants to use the game to demonstrate ways to resolve a similar conflict.

How I Use It

Cool School! Where Peace Rules has many interesting applications for the classroom. It can stand alone as an individual activity for students to do on their own in the classroom or as homework (students could then bring their certificates to class as proof that they’ve completed the assignment). However, this game probably works better as a launching pad for whole class or small group discussion and even personal reflection. Children could watch the scenarios in groups with a teacher and decide together (or take turns deciding) what choices to make. Each choice could spark discussion such as how students feel about the scenario; how they would feel if they were one of the characters; is there another, different way to respond that’s not listed here; has something similar ever happened to them; how did they react; what happened, what consequences where there; why is it important to keep the peace? Older students could prepare written responses to the questions above as an in-class or homework assignment. Teachers could also use the scenarios as inspiration for helping students create and act out short plays or drawing story boards either re-enacting the same scenarios or making up new ones. In the process of doing the plays or writing stories, the class could continue discussing the different ways one can respond in a conflict and the results of one’s choices.

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