Integrate games, puzzles, and creative play into your classroom

Program overview

You may be familiar with the strategy of “gamification” in education, where game-like mechanics are inserted into lessons to encourage participation from students. This approach attempts to harness our dopamine-seeking brains for good by rewarding desired behavior until a new positive feedback loop forms that seeks out requested content. But if the objective is to build long-term commitment to learning and curiosity about our world, mere gamification falls short. Rather, we must reimagine our educational spaces as an inviting open world of intrigue, mystery, and mischief that nurtures exploratory minds rather than reward-focused minds.

In this 5-day intensive course (July 10 – 14, 2023), we will explore different types of gaming and puzzle design that facilitate spaces for students to build connection to and agency in their learning. Primarily, we will focus on the impact of alternate reality gaming (ARGs), role playing games (RPGs), and variations on the “escape game” format and how they provide unique opportunities for curiosity driven engagement and creative problem solving. We will transform indoor and outdoor spaces and educational standards into immersive learning environments, and learn strategies and techniques for effective game and puzzle design.

Bewilderness Details

Who: Educators (open to the public as well). There are no prerequisite skills required for the course. Participants should expect some light hiking and off trail exploration.
When: July 10 – 14, 2023, 9:00am – 4:00pm
Where: Burlington, VT with field trips to nearby field sites
Cost: $650, includes lunch.
Optional: $375 for graduate credits (3) through Castleton. Financial aid may be available.

Program Objectives

This course will introduce educators to the burgeoning field of immersive game and puzzle design. Participantswill develop, implement, and playtest puzzles that are suited for a range of experiences: from the tabletop to the immersive, from puzzle hunts to broad-scoped alternate reality games (ARG). Designs will act as media for learning in language arts, math, science, nature connection, history, mythology, environmental awareness, skills, social and emotional introspection, and more.

Teacher Testimonials

“It deepened my sense of place and understanding of the natural communities in which I teach. I will be able to help kids ask questions, look for evidence, and make their own guesses about what is going on in the natural communities around them, how things got that way, and what they might look like in the future.”

Dylan, Middle School Teacher

“This course is definitely in my top 3 courses of all time! I loved everything about it–the structure (lectures followed by most of the day outside in the field), then content, and the activities. It felt like summer camp for adults. It’s hard to pick one highlight. I really enjoyed learning more about sites around our community–most of which I have never been to. Going to the Lamoille Cave was probably the biggest highlight for me, although I truly enjoyed learning about each site. The food was incredible, too!”

Sarah, High School Teacher

“More than anything this course helped me develop a way of thinking about and discovering the stories of a place. Teage gave us so many tools – introducing us to possible sites for field trips, practicing rapid site evaluation and tree ids, but also group discovery process to build our capacity to recognize patterns and unearth what’s happened here.”

Brian, Middle School Teacher

“This course gave me a huge content boost that I needed. While I may not get to the depth of this content with elementary students, it’s important to understand the bigger picture context and details. The hands-on exploration and analysis of field sites is a perfect model to use with students to enable them to apply their knowledge to construct a deeper understanding of landscapes. I can envision using these models with elementary students. I will also take and share the online activities (Where’s Waldo, image identification, etc.) to use with students in the event of continued remote learning. I know colleagues were struggling with ideas to keep kids engaged as time went on.”

Courtney, Elementary School Teacher

Sample Day

The flow of each day will be roughly the same. Below is what Day #2 might look like.

9:00 – 10:30 am Lecture/discussion around Narrative Architecture and Aesthetic
10:30 – 12:00 pm Hands-on activity building RPG and ARG worlds
12:00 – 1:00 pm Working lunch: solve puzzle to unlock container with lunch
1:00 – 2:30 pm Discussion: Navigating complex concepts in open world game space
2:30 – 4:00 pm Hands-on activity: Solving puzzles using locks and ciphers


Dr. Christine Fleener bio pic

Dr. Christine Fleener

Scientist, Educator