The Adventure Begins

It seems fitting that the first blog post (indeed, the first few posts) take the time to explore, explain and refine what I consider to be the primary STEMpunk initiative:

Build an innovative middle school level curriculum that uses Project Based Learning and Makerspace methods within a Science-fiction themed narrative roleplay to teach STEM and Humanities topics while meeting Language Arts, Science, and Mathematics common core standards and benchmarks.

I expect this statement to be an evolving description of my effort to impact STEM education, so the quoted text here in this post may one day be the only place on this website where the original statement is recorded. This is a layer in the archeology of my progressing thought, if you will.

Since this post marks the official beginning of my adventure to develop STEMpunk I think it useful to talk about one word that I did not use in my description of STEMpunk that will help me expand on my overall concept. The word is ...


Central to the role playing aspect of STEMpunk is the idea that students will be engaging in an adventure, a sort of campaign or quest in the vein of D&D, Space 1889, Verne, and other RPGs. The adventure is the primary vehicle for the main narrative, or overall story arc that the students will be working within to achieve the program's STEM learning objectives. To describe my current vision for how this STEMpunk adventure narrative might work in a school setting, imagine:

a Textbook, a Workbook, a hands-on Activities Manual, a Makerspace, and an adventure Novel all go out to lunch together one day and realize that they could do their jobs better if they joined together as a unified resource. Together they have a combined synergy in co-presenting their ideas that is greater than what they had when it came to mediating and creating learning and growth experiences separately.

Novel would create a storyline ripe with plots, sub-plots, rising and falling action, and compelling characters (whose personas the students would adopt). Each chapter would be a discrete mini-adventure building toward an overall story arc, much in the same way each book in a series is both a separate story yet also part of a larger main narrative that is being pieced together slowly, Rather than taking place solely on paper, this storyline would also take place in the classroom (and possibly elements of the virtual world) via strategic interludes of role play where characters develop part of the storyline outside the written narrative while also exploring and experimenting with concepts from our friend Textbook.

Textbook would weave its concepts and educational content and goals directly and seamlessly into Novel's adventure narrative, both riding and propelling the wave of reader engagement sparked by the narrative. Each chapter of the narrative would be a vehicle for a set of related concepts that will ultimately connect to a larger set of learning goals. As the narrative moves from passive reception to active participation when it enters the role play sequences, the learning objectives and knowledge points will be lifted from the page and brought into a real-time interplay of ideas among characters, i.e. students. This interplay will be structured and expanded on by Workbook and Activities Manual.

Workbook and Activities Manual find their place in this new creation by directing the energy and action of the role play to have the characters work in groups to apply the knowledge and learning objectives in the chapter to solve a specific open-ended problem or address a specific need in the form of a challenge. Characters will have to work together to create and carry out a mini-project plan for examining, defining, and resolving the problem or need before they can move on to the next sequence of the adventure. Among the resources the characters will have for their project is a Makerspace

Makerspace will both be a conventional collection of tools, materials and resources for building physical objects as well as library of conceptual tools, rubrics, and other mental widgets for engaging in mental tasks of planning and problem solving (that will inevitably be played out in the physical world and part of the role play to solve a problem or meet a need). 


The point I was hoping to make when I began this post was that a narrative adventure is key to obtaining an exciting and innovative synergy for learning as I envision STEMpunk. I hesitated to use the word adventure in any descriptions to date as I have been concerned that it might give some reviewers a negative association with my project - as if I were simply pulling together gamers for an Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, when in fact I have much more than that in mind. 

As my ideas evolve (and possibly regress) I will lay them out here on this blog as a tool to help all parties (me included) understand where I am going with this concept and exactly how it will be engaged with and made real. I will attempt to make blog posts weekly and to keep you informed about my posts if you sign up using the Partners link above.