Great Brook School’s Maryanne Cullinan recently collaborated with colleagues from around the world and presented research at the Transformative Play Initiative Seminar that was held at Uppsala University in Gotland, Sweden.
Cullinan, who has been teaching in ConVal since 2005, has been pursuing her Ph.D. at Lesley University and is focusing her research on role-playing games (RPG) as a way to maximize educational accessibility. Over the past year, she’s collaborated with Rich Oxenham of Bath, England, who founded Hatchling Games and is the creator of the RPG Inspirisles.
Inspirisles is a completely original all-ages Tabletop RPG promoting storytelling, empathy and Deaf awareness with an emphasis on cooperation.
Inspirisles is designed to teach hearing students basic sign language and deaf awareness. Cullinan used the game as part of an elective course for seventh and eighth graders at Great Brook. Those students’ experiences served as the subject for Cullinan and Oxenham’s presentation highlighting the use of the game to build cultural awareness and teach American sign language to middle school students.
“Teachers need to be increasingly creative to meet the needs of students, who will need thinking skills as well as content in the real world,” Cullinan said. “Roleplaying games are an academically understudied pedagogy, even though teachers have seen them do wonders with kids. It’s amazing our little school can be part of research and journal articles that help forward the use of RPGs all over the world!”
In addition to her work with Inspirisles, Cullinan has been collaborating closely with Jennifer Genova, a middle school social studies teacher in Salem to develop a theoretical matrix meant to help educators select or create RPGs that maximize their students’ social-emotional or academic development. Their shared work was the subject of a second presentation at last week’s conference, which focused on analyzing RPGs and their use in educational settings.
“I am very proud of Maryanne’s commitment to discovering creative ways to engage students in rigorous academics and cultural competency,” Great Brook School Principal Kat Foecking said. “She is the kind of out-of-the-box thinker that drives educational innovation, which directly benefits our students.”