NJIS Game Night is a monthly online school event where students, both young and old, can grow their social skills and maintain their mental health. The first Friday of every month, STUCO (Student Council) and caring teachers host fun, safe, and collaborative gaming experiences. During the pandemic, students need a sense of belonging and connection to each other. With face to face learning, the benefits of collaborative play are cherished during recess. However, during online learning students also need a space where they can practice their communication skills and wield their agency to create and shape ideas into reality through play. NJIS Game Night has been not just a popular event, but an essential opportunity for students to reconnect and grow new friendships.
At the core of the process for planning and implementing NJIS Game Night, we consistently listen to and respond to the voices, ideas, and opinions of our students. This has been a valuable experience for giving STUCO (student council) members a platform to develop and demonstrate their strengths with event planning. STUCO has been a leader in hosting meetings with teachers to collaboratively create Google Forms to gather input from the student population. This info has fully shaped each month’s menu of gaming experiences. Students feel seen and heard in our voice chat before and during each monthly event. Students make suggestions and vote on which games will be hosted each month. They also make choices about who they will be playing with, as we host multiple simultaneous games. This excitement builds through the month as we approach each event, with children discussing strategies and even research and suggest plugins used on game servers (e.g. our Minecraft Java Edition server).
Students from grade 4 up to grade 12 (PYP, MYP and Grade 11/12) are connected on a private voice and text chat platform, with both student and teacher admins moderating discussions. With this, STUCO has also been able to demonstrate their technical expertise with managing a social media Discord server. For example, each student has access to various sub-channels of the chat, based on their grade level or role in STUCO.