Pathway School’s Innovation Center is a place to ‘succeed’

New facility for special needs students provides a state-of-the-art environment for STEM learning and building self-confidence
By: | October 10, 2019

When The Pathway School in Eagleville, PA, launched its “Unleashing Potential Through Innovation” campaign, it had a number of goals.

The not-for-profit private school, which serves special needs students, wanted to increase enrollment. It also wanted to ensure its STEM program provided “every student with the opportunity to succeed.”

And, it wanted to build something unforgettable for its kids.

On the first day of school, that dream became reality when Pathway unveiled its $3.5 million Innovation Center, which features, among other things, a technology lab for esports and competitive video gaming.

“The Innovation Center gives us the facilities to teach employability skills for the future,” says Jeff Fullem, the STEM coordinator at Pathway. “We have the tools and spaces for students to get hands-on experience, enabling them to identify things they are good at and enjoy doing.”

The Center is part a five-year plan to not only modernize the campus but to boost enrollment at the school, which houses students ages 6-21 who have neurological impairment, including Autism Spectrum Disorder, psychological disorders, and serious emotional disturbance.

Those students have an incredible desire to learn, and Pathway’s curriculum fulfills that need, integrating in-class learning with current science, technology, engineering and math concepts.

Highlights of the Center include a video production space, a culinary arts room, an energy corridor and science rooms. But one of the most unique spaces is the eGames and technology lab, where computers were customized by Pathway’s IT team for students, many of whom already are passionate about gaming and watch online multi-player events.

“Video games are now a teaching tool,” Fullem told the Times Herald (Norristown PA) newspaper, during the Center’s opening. “Our kids are like their peers in that they love video games, they love technology. And while we’re letting them play, we’re also teaching them social skills, gaming etiquette, maintaining self-control, strategizing.”

All of it provides a way for students to be interactive, learn, build self-confidence, and become leaders.

“We are truly preparing our students for the 21st century,” CEO David Schultheis said.

Colorado considering esports

The Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) is giving esports a trial run, with 50 schools testing out the “competitive activity.” The fall season runs from October to January, with a spring season tentatively slated for February to May, and teams will be co-ed. CHSAA’s pilot is being run by PlayVS, which has partnership agreements with various publishers, and offers League of Legends, Rocket League and Smite. According to reports, the current waitlist to build an interscholastic esports program with PlayVS is more than 13,000 schools long. This puts esports on par with traditional programs like football, which is available in 14,247 schools.

Oklahoma district going all in

The Putnam City District in Oklahoma now has the largest district-wide esports program in the state thanks its launch in all three high schools. Jeffrey Bishop, a teacher and coach, told KFOR-TV that esports isn’t going anywhere. “We have $120,000 plus in the room of brand-new equipment just this year,” Bishop said. “All bolted down, so it doesn’t sprout legs and walk away.” Students are happily embracing the new activity and team atmosphere. “There’s people I didn’t think I’d ever meet if it wasn’t for this,” said Brock Tevebaugh, a junior at Putnam City West.

Shout-outs

Quotes of the week from across esports and academics:

Norman Rice, Extreme Networks Chief Operating Officer: “[Esports] is like high frequency trading on Wall Street. They’re talking about milliseconds speed, you’re competing next to each other, you’re also competing with people that are a far distance away, perhaps another school in a remote location.”

University of California-Irvine director Mark Deppe why it is important to connect young gamers with young expert coaches: “Kids care about learning because the people teaching them matter.”

Callum Fletcher, Illinois Wesleyan coach: “These are skills that employers are looking for — self-critical, analytical, continuous learning, able to perform under pressure, tech-savvy.”

Noteworthy

CT COLLEGE OFFERS ACADEMIC ESPORTS: The University of New Haven created one of the first accredited sports management programs in the country. Now, it is doing the same with esports. The university announced this week it will establish a comprehensive academic curriculum in esports management, one of the first to be accredited as part of a business curriculum by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International). UNH will offer a concentration in esports management, with enrollment starting in the fall of 2020. It is not only is creating an interdisciplinary undergraduate program in esports, but it also will offer a companion master’s program in esports and technology, the first such graduate program in the U.S.

LEVELING UP: “Meteoric growth.” That’s how Dan Coonan, the president of the Eastern College Athletic Conference, views the rise of esports. The governing body, celebrating its 82nd year and known for standout programs such as hockey, is embracing competitive gaming, with a robust 57 colleges and more than 250 teams on board. That is nearly double what it had in 2016. The ECAC is also sponsoring women’s leagues, coed leagues and an alumni esports league. Later this year, it plans to crown its first ECAC Esports Grand Champion to honor the school with the “best across-the-board success.”


 

Information from wire services and news releases were used in this report. Chris Burt is UB’s esports editor and develops program content for LRP’s esports conferences. 


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