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Burleson’s Middle School for Gamers is Expanding Through Graduation

Imagine playing video games in class and deciding what you want to study. It's happening at REALM Middle School in Burleson and administrators say the approach is working so well, they're expanding it all the way up to graduation.

Gracie Dishko isn't your normal eighth grader.

“Most people my age don't know how to program,” Dishko said

But she doesn’t attend your average middle school. REALM teaches game design and development, putting a high-tech spin on required curriculum.

“It's just very interactive. In a normal classroom, it'd be like okay, a lecture. Then you'd get a paper, do that paper,” she said.

“We take that and we deliver and package it in a different way," said Dr. April Chiarelli, Exec. Dir. of Learning at Burleson ISD.

Classes like math, science and history are all taught, but students set their own agendas.

“I feel like I do well because of how it's self paced,” said Ethan Martin, a seventh grader at REALM.

They work to pass levels until they've mastered a subject and computers are linked, so teachers can see how they're doing.

“They'll self-select, I need this teacher, so they'll go to that teacher for help,” Dr. Chiarelli said.

The whole school is open concept, something Martin's friends just don't understand.

“They have a conception that we just play games all day, but we don't,” he said.

When students appear to be gaming, they’re actually learning code.

“Python, C++. We even use programs like Go Dot and Canopy to make these games,” Dishko said.

“They do exceptionally well and the reason they do that is because we're really taking what they learn outside of school and applying it to school,” Dr. Chiarelli said.

Right now REALM is inside Kerr Middle School, but it will stand alone later this year in preparation for expansion. Parents said the methods are working and they want their kids to continue through high school. That starts this fall with its first freshman class. The school will add students each year, eventually serving 6-12 graders.

“Really it's about us changing education to fit our kids,” Dr. Chiarelli said.

It's a choice public school for the district. At the middle school level, attendance is chosen by application and lottery. At the high school level, all applicants participate in an interview. For more information on the application process, click HERE.

Burleson ISD is teaming up with Microsoft to host a BISD eSports Tournament February 9. It’s from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the REALM Arena, located at 517 SW Johnson Ave. in Burleson. The event is open to the public with tickets available for purchase.

The inaugural tournament brings players in grades K-12 together for intense, live arena video game play for the chance to win cash prizes and bragging rights. It will include live game feeds, play-by-play commentary by an eSports caster, lights, hazers, geysers, and a music deejay. Tournament players will compete in the popular Rocket League and Fortnite games. Players aged 12 and under will choose their battle-cars and compete in teams of two in Rocket League, where soccer meets driving. Players age 13 and over may choose to match up to play Rocket League and/or solo in Fortnite, a game of strategy to be the last player standing.

Special guests, Team Obscuris, University of Texas at Arlington’s national champion eSports team, will speak with students about using video gaming and design to earn college scholarships while enhancing programming and software design skills.

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