In 2009, in an inaugural initiative by non-profit organization Institute of Play, the NYC public school Quest to Learn opened the doors to its first class of 6th graders. Designed as a “living lab to develop and evolve a game-like approach to learning,” the school now serves the complete middle and high school set, and is “transforming not only student engagement and outcomes, but also teacher practices in compelling new ways.” Read on to learn more about this inspiring model for collaboration, creativity, and a fresh take on teaching 21st century skills.

Collaboration is King for 21st Century Skills
Quest to Learn Schools evolve their 21st century curriculum through dedicated collaboration. Curriculum teams consist of three players: an Institute of Play game designer, a curriculum developer, and a classroom teacher. Working together regularly to brainstorm and test ideas, these teams design curriculum based around games that are played in the classroom. As a team, they are able to accomplish much more than they would in their individual silos. The model they’ve established for their work together seems to have honed in on the essential components of successful collaboration.

One of the things that gives games so much power in teaching kids is that games encourage you to keep trying. It’s the perfect fit to teach kids to keep trying without fearing failure.

A Sacred Space to Create Curriculum
The Quest curriculum teams’ meeting time and space—The Mission Lab—is protected and respected by all collaborators. Having a dedicated lab in which to brainstorm, create, and think is essential to the success of this program. This is not just another faculty lounge; it is a place that allows educators and designers to fulfill Institute of Play's mission to “make learning irresistible.”

You can see the energy in the classroom. You know learning is happening at the same time that kids are having fun.

Quest has found that teaching through games is particularly helpful when classroom teachers identify content areas that students have difficulty learning, or certain concepts on which they get stuck. Curriculum teams work together to design a game that will help kids better understand and remember a challenging piece of content.

Discover More About the Insitute of Play
This non-profit educational organization is dedicated to “creating learning experiences rooted in the principles of game design.” Founded on “making learning relevant—to the technologies that shape our kids’ lives, the passions that fuel their ambitions, and the demands of life in the 21st century,” the Institute combats what it calls a “crisis of engagement” in education today with hands-on learning through gaming and play. They show why games and learning are such effective tools for school curricula.

Additionally, the Institute offers a range of free resources for educational communities, including professional development materials, free "print and play" games for the classroom, and "Mission Packs", which contain projects from the Quest Schools’ curriculum.

Support and Inspiration for Teaching and Learning
Quest Schools are seeing incredible results with their unconventional approach to teaching and learning, for students and teachers. In addition to outranking peer schools on state and national metrics, the classrooms are lively, and the students are having fun while learning. The entire community is engaged in learning and teaching.


The partnership between Quest Schools and Institute of Play is unique, for sure, but it is also replicable. We encourage you to learn more about how to bring the Quest Model to your school and bring a new inspiration in education to your community.

Check out this video to learn even more about The Mission Lab at Quest Schools.