There’s a War in the Schoolyard: Role Playing Games and Education

How’s this for school spirit? Students at Østerskov Efterskole participate in a history class.

How’s this for school spirit? Students at Østerskov Efterskole participate in a history class.

Just try telling a student at Danish boarding school Østerskov Efterskole that imagination and play aren’t meant for the classroom. The school, founded by role-playing veterans Mads Lunau and Malik Hyltoft, teaches traditional school subjects through Live Action Role Play scenarios. Østerskov Efterskole opened in 2009.

ØE boards students from ages 14-16—equivalent to Canada’s grades nine and ten. According to the school’s website, they teach traditional high school subjects and hold the same final exams as other Danish schools.

The unorthodox teaching method sets the school apart. Østerkov takes an interdisciplinary approach to learning that is marketed as both fun and informative. Elaborate scenarios are constructed to keep students engaged, following larping form. The only difference is that learning is the objective.

The school offers examples on their website of how they approach learning. When studying World War II, for example, half the class will be assigned the task of locating German submarines in the Atlantic Ocean. Using a compass and geometry, they are able to find the submarine’s exact position.

At the other end of the class, a group must decode radio signals and transmit them to the next group, who will then translate from German to English. Since this particular class is taught in English, students are learning geometry, English and history at the same time.

The school’s vision is to teach students the lifelong skill of play through the interdisciplinary educational approach. This philosophy seems to be ringing true with some Danes, as enrollment has jumped the last two years. Denmark is the international hotspot for LARPing with a community of 100,000 people strong. If this educational model will take off anywhere, it will first happen here.

Imagination and play are undoubtedly a foundation of a child’s development, and the innovative way these educators have combined fun and learning in the classroom could perhaps serve as a model for future North American educational institutions.

The school's official crest, replete with Unicorn.

The school’s official crest, replete with Unicorn.

Gaston, a student at the school, shows off a costume on Visitor's Day.

Gaston, a student at the school, shows off a costume on Visitor’s Day.

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