Quest to Learn

A pioneering public school in New York City that offers a promising new model for student engagement

Designed from the ground up by a team of teachers and game designers, and firmly grounded in over thirty years of learning research, Quest to Learn re-imagines school as one node in an ecology of learning that extends beyond the four walls of an institution and engages kids in ways that are exciting, empowering and culturally relevant.

Quest to Learn’s unique standards-based integrated curriculum mimics the action and design principles of games by generating a compelling “need to know” in the classroom. Each trimester students encounter a series of increasingly complex, narrative challenges, games or quests, where learning, knowledge sharing, feedback, reflection and next steps emerge as a natural function of play.

For instance, in the integrated science and math learning domain, “The Way Things Work,” over the course of one trimester, sixth graders help a shrunken mad scientist, lost inside the human body, navigate the systems he encounters and report back to his research lab.

Other unique components of Quest to Learn include an embedded learning design studio (Mission Lab), a mixed-reality learning environment (SMALLab), after-school programming (Short Circuit and others), a private social network in which students practice digital citizenship (QLINK), an in-school teacher and professional development program (Studio Q) and a game design summer camp (MobileQuest).

Quest to Learn opened to its first class of sixth graders in 2009. In 2012, Quest to Learn opened an upper school, welcoming its first class of ninth graders. By 2015 the school will offer a complete middle and high school education.

Research is under way to generate comparative data on student proficiency in twenty-first century skills like systems thinking, creative problem-solving, collaboration, time management and identity formation. Preliminary results are promising. In addition, students are performing at or above New York City public school averages on standardized tests. And in 2010 the school ranked in the ninety-seventh percentile in student engagement across city schools.

For more information on the design and development of Quest to Learn, the school’s design document is available as a free downloadable pdf.

Visit the Quest to Learn website.