Educational Live Action Role Play (eduLARP)

Use live action role play games as a way for students and teachers to explore their own identifications in relation to characters.

Photo of John Sarte
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Live action role play games or Larps share many traits to tabletop RPGs and some video games. Through character development and playing those characters through game situations, players can build empathy for others in addition to their own character. The added benefit of the Larp is to cultivate empathy in situations that are less personal, less risky. For example, a group may learn to deal with bullying in a fantasy setting where an ogre is the bully and is played by the kindest individual in the room or racism is studied through playing a first contact situation with aliens set in the future.

At Inquiry Hub, students have designed and played two Larps aimed at grades 9 to 12 with 60 participants. The first Larp was fantasy-based as seen in the video. It emphasized collaboration among individuals while also developing a storyline that put two teams in opposition. In the end, the players had to leave the Island because their actions lead to its destruction. However, through self-sacrifice there was a way to be saved.

Recently, our students entered the Cloud 7 space station with a dystopian sci-fi theme. The players had to learn to work together to reboot the station's AI that had been infected by a malevolent virus. In addition, players had to understand their roles in the hierarchy and make alliances with other groups, including androids who wished for more rights. This proved to be a significant challenge for the students, but after the Larp we were able to talk more about how negotiations would have been much more successful in comparison to using force to subdue presumed threats.

Our experiences have highlighted the potential of Larps to develop character, identity, and problem solving skills.


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Photo of Geneva Hinchliffe

"EduLARP" what a great concept!

Photo of Elana Blinder

Hi John. This sounds incredible. I'm curious if this is something you've implemented during the regular school day or if it's been more of an out-of-school program? Also, are the LARP scenarios ongoing, or are they self-contained within a single period/day?

I think this approach could also present a great opportunity for kids to explore building empathy for fictional characters in literature. I'm especially interested to learn how these activities could challenge students to build empathy for antagonist characters and how this could potentially carry over into their everyday interactions with those who they may perceive as real-life antagonists.

Thanks for sharing!

Photo of John Sarte

Elana, thank you for your interest. I consider Larping to be on the cutting edge of educational innovation although Nordic countries seem to have picked up on the potential a few years ago already. To answer your questions, it is worth noting that my school is a public school of choice in Coquitlam, Canada with a total enrolment of sixty students in grades 9 to 12. We use a blended instructional model with face-to-face instruction supplemented by online course material.

We run our larps during school hours and require all our students to participate as part of cross-grade team building. The majority of the planning is handled by about 8 students who are the Non-Player Characters or NPCs. We do most of the planning during lunch and average about 2 to 3 hours per week over 14 weeks. We currently use online collaboration tools to keep our "creative output" somewhat organized, but that still needs some work. Although each game is designed to be run during the school day, we prepare the rest of the students with mini-workshops on backstory, costuming, combat, safety, rules, and character-building. We are currently debating how to extend the time period of the larp to encourage more investment by the rest of the students into their characters.

I totally agree with your insight that this would be great using existing fictional characters and worlds. Our Humanities teacher would like to produce a Shakespearian-influenced Larp, for example.

As practice for empathizing with the Other, Larping can be fun and serious at the same time. Our minority android population in our Cloud 7 larp was created to provide an underlying tension between humans and artificial life where androids were considered property first and had no voting rights or rights to self-determination. But we were hoping to see that humans had much in common with the androids as the mega-corporation of Cloud Corp treated people as property as well.