UPDATE: WE HAVE RECEIVED OUR 501(c)(3) TAX-EXEMPT STATUS! YOUR DONATIONS TO THIS CAMPAIGN ARE PARTIALLY TAX DEDUCTIBLE!!
Seekers Unlimited, a new company that strives to improve education through live action role-playing games, is unlocking a treasure chest of edu-larps with your key! If we hit our fundraising goal we can put the finishing touches on and then release six edu-larp games that were just classroom-tested in the spring semester of 2013.
These six games were written to adhere to California Science Scholastic Standards for 8th grade, but we need to modify them to meet the new Common Core State Standards as well as improve and add more student assessments. We also want to include customized artwork, notes from the playtest, guidelines and examples of play for teachers, and much more information so any teacher can run them without us present.
If we can make our stretch goals, you will enable us to get back to work crafting even more thrilling educational role-playing adventures!
If you are not a teacher or administrator, please consider donating an edu-larp to the school of your choice. If you can't afford an edu-larp, even a small donation helps us develop even more games at different levels on different subjects for more schools! Students LOVE edu-larps--they consistently ask us if they can play next year!
Our team has over 100 combined years of live action role playing (larp) experience, and we’re setting our talents to making learning FUN again!
Live action role playing, or play-pretend, has been around since the dawn of humanity, but only recently are people realizing what a powerful learning tool it can be. Popular modern larps are magnificent epics with amazing storylines, characters, costumes, props, and set dressing, where individuals get to play the hero in an adventure encompassing fantasy, horror, science fiction, western, and many other genres. But there are other larps that are just as or even more powerful, if not as colorful: mock trials, the model United Nations Club, disaster simulations, wargames, business training, and education.
Many companies are making educational video games, but very few are using larps for learning. Seekers Unlimited may be the only company in America designing larps specifically to meet scholastic standards in math, science, social studies, language arts, etc.
Edu-larps benefit students by:
- Enabling students to experience subjects contextually instead of just reading about them abstractly.
- Fostering collaborative problem solving.
- Making the learning experience enjoyable, thus increasing knowledge retention and transferability.
- Empowering students to make their own role-playing choices and experience consequences without personal failure—character actions are not part of grading, player learning is.
- Getting kids up and out of their chairs, moving around and interacting with other people--learning by doing.
WHAT IS AN EDU-LARP?
Check out this video from Tedd Wakeman, talking about the Ancient Mesopotamia edu-larp designed by Seekers Unlimited (available for free).
An edu-larp is an educational game of play pretend. Students (and teachers) pretend to be someone else for the duration of the class, learning by walking in that person’s shoes. Through research and a hands-on approach, they get a full experience of learning beyond just reading a book or hearing a lecture. What’s more fun: reading about Benjamin Franklin, or BEING Benjamin Franklin for a day?
EDU-LARPS ARE NOT VIDEO GAMES
Seekers Unlimited believes that although there are amazing technological advances, not all schools or all students have access to the latest computers and upgrades, and it might be years before they do. Our games just require imagination.
With edu-larps, the teacher retains the ability to throttle the material to an easier or more difficult level and to differentiate each part to their specific class. Edu-larp is a pedagogy flexible enough to challenge without being overwhelming, supportive without coddling. They are limited only by human creativity, not by file size, bandwidth, or pre-programmed choices. Educational live action role playing engages students to teach themselves and each other, learn from and even teach the instructor, all while actively interacting with human beings instead of passively trying to absorb material from workbooks, packets, or lecture videos.
WHO WE ARE
Aaron Vanek - Executive Director, Founder, Designer, has been larping for nearly 25 years, with numerous credits. He has written for many larp publications and co-edited a few. His essay Cooler Than You Think: Understanding Live Action Role Playing is used as a required text for the University of Washington course Heroes and Monsters. He has designed and produced larp events for the Girl Scouts of America, the West Hollywood Book Fair, and the Paul Biane Library in Rancho Cucamonga (which received the 2013 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, partly due to their edu-larps designed by Vanek and others) before starting Seekers Unlimited. He is a strong advocate for the power of live action role playing and is frequently interviewed as a larp expert in the popular press.
Christian Brown - Designer, has been larping for twenty years. Since 2011, Christian has become a full-time larp professional, making a living by supplying interactive experiences to a core group of fans. Brown jumped at the opportunity to join Seekers Unlimited. He now contributes his gaming expertise to the educational and executive background of the board. He designs rule-sets, writes stories, and creates in-class role-playing experiences for students. The most common reaction Brown gets from friends and acquaintances when he tells them about Seekers Unlimited is, “I wish we had that when I was a kid.” He couldn’t agree more.
Whitney "Strix" Beltran - Fundraising Coordinator, is a Ph.D. student at Pacifica Graduate Institute’s Mythological Studies program and a scholar who regularly straddles the interdisciplinary space between mythological and role-playing studies. She has shown a lifelong commitment to education and public service and has served as both a grant writer and funding coordinator for non-profits associated with the Arts in schools, environmental education, nutrition for children, and sustainable food projects. Strix has also served in the United States Peace Corps. Her passion for edu-larp began when her own light bulb went off while participating in Model United Nations in high school. Her aim is to ensure that Seekers Unlimited can bring that light bulb moment to as many students as possible, making learning both a powerful and relevant experience that will help students succeed in life.
Full bios of our staff, board of directors, and advisory council can be found on our website.
DESCRIPTION OF REWARDS
Please note that the prices for our edu-larps and design services are for our Kickstarter donors only.
Any level that has the term "artifact" in it means you get a physical object mailed to you in addition to an electronic version, if applicable.
THANKS! - We will list your name on our website as a donor if you choose.
BASIC ARTIFACT LEVEL - You will receive a Seekers Unlimited-branded pen with an LED light in orange and black:
LARPER LEVELS - You will receive your choice of a larp written by either Aaron Vanek or Seekers board member and veteran larper Michael Tice. Neither was made to meet any specific scholastic standards nor do they have student assessments, but they are both entry-level live action role playing events.
The Basic Larper Level includes your choice of one of these, the Advanced Larper Level includes both. If you choose the Artifact reward level you get a signed, numbered, softcover copy as well as the electronic version(s).
Secret Ante - Aaron Vanek’s entry for the 2013 Larpwriter challenge. Secret Ante investigates what it means to be a character and a person through a modified version of poker. It can be used as an introduction to the character-making aspect of larping, a stand alone scenario, or an exercise that is part of a larger larp. For 5-20 adults, about 2-3 hours.
Exodus 22:18 = A finalist in the 2013 Larpwriter Challenge, sponsored by the cutting edge Nordic Larp convention Knutepunkt. This is an introductory larp scenario by Mike Tice for 12-15 players, 3-4 hours.
In this larp, players portray inhabitants of a European town during the height of the witch trials in the 15th century. The local priest, Father Aldo, unexpectedly died a week ago. Shortly before his death, Father Aldo composed a letter to the Inquisitor in a nearby city, indicating that his illness was due to witchcraft, and that one or more witches lived in his town in the guise of honest Christian folk.
The Inquisitor has now arrived in the town, and has summoned a number of prominent citizens who had contact with the priest on the last day of his life to the town hall in order to carry out a preliminary investigation. The Townsfolk are set the task of uncovering any witches among them.
THE EDU-LARPS FOR MIDDLE GRADE SCIENCE
Seekers Unlimited ran these six edu-larps at a charter school in Los Angeles for an 8th grade science class. You can receive one, two, three, four, five, or all six of them as donor rewards. You choose the one(s) you want based on your donation level. Some have additional costs for materials that are listed next to the description (materials not provided).
These edu-larps are designed to last for 4-8 hours spread over a few class days, but teachers can adjust this based on the experience.
Although designed for middle school science standards, they include lessons in math, social studies, writing, research, and more.
These edu-larps are appropriate for ages 10-14, but with some adjustments can be enjoyed by students a few years younger or older.
They do not have to be used in a classroom setting, but they were designed for that setting and include assessments built into the games. If we reach our fundraising goal, these goals and assessments will be matched to the Common Core State Standards; they currently meet California Science Standards (8th grade).
All edu-larp rewards include a lifetime technical support license to access any updates or changes we make to the scenario, as well as support for you in case you have questions or need specific changes--perhaps you need a few more characters for a larger class. We will send you new PDFs with changes, but not any print (artifact) copies.
Descriptions of the six games
Balloon Race - Students learn about forces and gravity by racing balloons across the classroom. Material cost = ~$50
Be Your Own Planet! - Students create and name their own stars, planets, and other stellar bodies in a fun game that teaches forces, gravity, mass, density, and concepts about our own solar system. Can their star systems survive interstellar dangers? Material cost = ~$5
Monster Maker - Students role-play Dr. Frankenstein by creating their own clay creatures that duel one another by asking science questions developed by the students and approved by the teacher. This edu-larp introduces students to the basic concepts of chemistry in living systems. Material cost = ~$30
Element Hero – With super powers based on the elements, students must stop villains attacking their city. An adventure that introduces students to the atom and the periodic table. Material cost = nothing
Noir - Can you solve a mysterious death? Students role-play detectives, forensic scientists, and suspects in a series of possible crimes. Using science and the scientific method, they gather evidence and form a hypothesis about the death. On the final day a trial is held to determine the outcome of each case. Material cost = ~$10
The Great Phlogiston Debate - Students role-play actual scientists active at the end of the Age of the Enlightenment. One of the biggest scientific principles under scrutiny at that time was the theory of “phlogiston,” a substance that supposedly existed in elements that burned and was released when set afire. Material cost = ~$30
See the video below of actual gameplay of the edu-larps Noir, Monster Maker, and The Great Phlogiston Debate (apologies for picture and audio quality)
OUR CUSTOM DESIGN SERVICE REWARD LEVELS
These top level rewards enable us to design an educational larp for YOU or your organization on a topic, subject, or lesson of your choice, from kindergarten to adult education. We are also offering a how-to workshop so your staff can run and even make their own educational larps.
These reward levels include our travel arrangements and some materials, but do NOT include site rental or marketing expenses--you must provide the space and the people.
$10,000 - Hit Seekers (stretch goal #1) – If we make this amount, we will be able to release Hit Seekers as a bonus edu-larp. This will be available in addition to the edu-larps listed above, both print and PDF.
Designed for remedial high school math, students take on the roles of music company executives trying to make money by signing fictional artists and producers and getting them into the recording studio to make an album. It was made to run for at least two weeks, but can be extended for an entire semester as an additional pervasive activity.
$12,500 - Language Seekers (stretch goal #2) - If we raise this amount, we will design a booklet of short scenarios for language teachers. These scenarios will ask students to role-play simple scenes in the chosen language. Teachers can adjust the level of difficulty, the vocabulary and grammar used, as well as play a character that interacts with students. If we make this amount in donations, Language Seekers will be playtested in a high school French class taught by Aaron Vanek's sister-in-law, who requested it (fall-winter 2013-14).
$15,000 - Stretch goal #3 - A secret! (for now)
The schools we are working with have had their budgets slashed, so we don't charge them a dime to develop and test our programs. We incur the materials costs for each game.
Also, raising funds to produce these educational games is extremely difficult, especially without our tax-exempt status. It could take years to receive grant funding even after we receive a 501c3 designation, which may take months--this IRS department is currently under tremendous pressure and scandal. Besides the design costs, we have the expected expenses of a startup company: insurance, legal fees, website creation, etc.
All the educational larps above have been classroom-tested, and with your help we can offer them to schools nationally and continue our development of more inspiring scenarios.
Whenever we receive 501c3 tax-exempt status, a portion of your donation may be eligible to be deducted as a charity donation.
Risks and challenges
The design team of Seekers Unlimited has been creating larps for more than 20 years. Previous clients for our educational larps include the Girl Scouts of America, the West Hollywood Book Fair, the Paul Biane Library, UCLA Game Lab, GameDesk, Our Community Charter School, the APEX Academy, and New Heights Charter School.
We have observed each playtest of the edu-larps we are offering and will adjust each game based on those observations as well as provide examples and guidelines for teachers unfamiliar with role-playing. We are constantly consulting with educators around the world to create the most effective, engaging experience we can. We have run two successful, smaller Kickstarter campaigns before: Star Seekers and Hit Seekers.
As a nascent public charity corporation, we are committed to providing the best tools for learning at an affordable price. If we do not make our goals, there will be a significant delay in bringing our games to market as we wait for our 501c3, then wait for grants and further fundraising fruition. It will be much harder to create additional edu-larps for other classrooms. It won’t stop us, but it will slow us down. We believe students have been waiting long enough for an exciting, captivating education.
If we do meet our goals, we will: align our edu-larps to Common Core Standards; create art for each game; lay out the materials; and add playtest notes and options for expansion and pacing--all in a teacher-friendly format. We have a wealth of experience with a talented team in all of these areas who will aid us in efficient completion. Production delays are possible, but since all the edu-larps are already in a basic prototype format--detailed enough to run in a school--we're confident that our products will reach our donors hands within a year or less. Let's work together to bring educational live action role playing to homes and classrooms everywhere!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
If we reach our fundraising goal, we'll email the donor with a PDF once we have completed Common Core alignment, added artwork, fleshed our the design notes, directions, etc. A few weeks after that we will mail you a paper copy if you choose an artifact reward level.
We hope to continually improve and update the lesson plans as we get more feedback from teachers. Thus as we make changes, we'll send new PDFs out, like software patches.
We do not have plans to update the printed versions nearly as frequently, if at all, however.
A qualitative and quantitative study was conducted for one class on the effectiveness of edu-larps just recently; the data is still being analyzed. The initial results will be revealed on July 12 at the NAMLE conference in Torrance, California.
Right now (July 2) we only have anecdotal evidence as observed by the Seekers Unlimited designers and via surveys from students. We'll be posting more student and teacher testimonials as video as updates to this campaign.
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