4 Key Factors to Starting an Elementary Esports Program
- June 6, 2023
- Sean Downey
The benefits of scholastic esports make a compelling case for starting a program, and many schools have done just that to enhance students’ learning experience and future opportunities. Starting an esports program is beneficial to learners of all ages: Research shows that students who participate in esports experience social and emotional benefits, increased academic achievement, and higher graduation rates.
With all of these benefits in mind, creating an esports program for elementary students could be the next step in improving student outcomes throughout middle school, high school, college, and beyond. An elementary esports program not only supports students’ future esports endeavors, but also helps children build a foundation of skills and interests that support their overall academic and social-emotional success.
Younger learners have different abilities and learning needs than their older peers, so creating an elementary esports program isn’t the same as creating a secondary program. It’s key that the program is tailored to meet these young students’ needs, and learning space design plays an important role in supporting program goals.
When creating an elementary esports program, simplify the technology so young students can learn to use it independently. Today’s young children are digital natives, but they still need to work their way up to more complex technology by starting with more basic devices and software. An easy game to start with is Minecraft: Education Edition, which can be run on most networks and devices, is simple to use, and is intuitive for students to play. Selecting a widely accessible game like Minecraft avoids having to invest in expensive and complicated gaming computers, controllers, and keyboards, which can be challenging to learn and have high upkeep costs. Instead, start with durable and reliable tech––like tablets or desktop computers––to make gaming more accessible to young learners from the start.
The learning space you utilize for your elementary esports program is a key part of students’ engagement in the program. The esports space should reflect the physical needs of young learners, with furnishings that are convenient and comfortable for all students to use. Esports gaming chairs and tables need to be appropriately sized for the children that will be using them, or utilize adjustable desks and chairs to create a space that is comfortable and functional across grade levels. If your esports space is designed for observing, as well, add tiered modular seating for a comfortable and effective viewing space. Finally, make sure the space is well-lit and ventilated, as younger children are more sensitive to environmental factors.
Skill-building and collaboration should be the central goal and focus of an elementary esports program. Through esports, children can learn critical thinking, problem-solving, and strategic planning skills, while also getting exposure to STEM ideas and concepts. Esports can also help students understand the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship, as the extracurricular is strongly focused on working collaboratively and supporting all team members. Through an elementary scholastic esports program, students won’t learn these skills and concepts in-depth, but the foundations they build in STEM and collaboration will carry them into future esports opportunities in middle and high school.
Young students have shorter attention spans, so a successful elementary esports program is strongly dependent on how fun and engaging it is for learners. To keep the program interesting and exciting, consider using games, rewards, and incentives for achieving different goals and accomplishments. Additionally, be sure to regularly encourage and recognize students’ achievements––to them, their families, and their peers. Keeping students engaged with their accomplishments and progress will encourage them to work towards personal goals and improve their skills, while also helping them feel proud of themselves.
Through an elementary esports program, children can develop a foundation in esports that can set them on the path for future success in middle school, high school, college, and beyond. To read more about creating an elementary esports program, read Dr. Christina Counts’ featured article in eSchool News: 4 Tips for Creating an Elementary Esports Program