Esports Takes Lancaster by Storm!

On August 29th, 2019, the Emerald Foundation formally launched their PA Smart Esports project. The project, funded by the PA Department of Education, provides support for Pennsylvania Esports teams affiliated with the North American Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF). NASEF, a leader in K-12 Esports, has developed curricula and resources schools can use to increase student learning though participation in Esports.

The $500,000 grant will allow the Emerald Foundation to provide intensive support to three high-need schools: Columbia High School, La Academia Partnership Charter School and Lebanon High School. Each of these schools will receive equipment infrastructure enhancements. Other participating schools will receive a lesser degree of support including stipends for their General Managers and an opportunity to host competitions onsite using the Emerald Foundation mobile tournament equipment.

For more information about how you or your school can get involved in Esports, contact Terry Kraft, Chief Esports Strategist at the Emerald Foundation.

Supporting diversity, equity and inclusion in Esports is a project designed to challenge many of our traditional beliefs about how organizations, clubs and sports teams operate. For example, if K-12 education designed for diversity, we might have classrooms that teach us how to collaborate with “unusual suspects,” a skill highly valued in the 21stcentury workplace. It might require us to be more flexible when scheduling team practices so that we can accommodate students with family or work responsibilities. It may also require us to adapt our communication strategies to accommodate English language learners or to design technology to accommodate students with physical disabilities. When we treat DEI as a “bolt on to regular learning,” we fail to address the basic injustices inherent in many of our educational systems and structures. This project attempts to narrow the gaps between the highest and lowest performing students through highly engaging instruction, frequent opportunities for team collaboration, ongoing creative problem-solving, and competitive fair play.
The Emerald Foundation has been a pioneer in bringing a DEI focus to esports. Building upon the work done by the Samueli Foundation in Orange County, CA, in August 2018, the Emerald Foundation finalized a strategic partnership with the Samueli Foundation to bring the North American Scholastic Federation programming and framework to the east coast, starting with Pennsylvania. One of the Emerald Foundation’s first steps was to reach out to La Academia Partnership Charter School, the lowest performing public school in Lancaster County to form the state’s first esports team. At a recent La Academia board meeting, esports team members did a presentation highlighting the impact that esports club is having on their academics, teamwork and school attendance. One student noted that a key player was “benched” because of his low math scores but he “had his back” and they were working together after school to get him back in the line-up. Another team member confessed that he’s not good at teamwork but his team mates “call him out” when he’s not being a team-player and it’s helping him get better at it. A third student, a young woman, said she doesn’t like it that there are more boys than girls on the team, so she’s reaching out to her friends to let them know that girls can be as good as boys when it comes to esports. These may seem like minor accomplishments to some, but the pride theses students showed in their accomplishments was inspiring. They acknowledged that though they’re currently in 27thplace, the schools they’re competing against have been doing this for a long time, so they know they’ll be able to improve over time.

The Samueli Foundation, based in Orange County, CA will continue to play a vital role in launching esports in Orange County and seeding esports in Pennsylvania. Gerald Solomon, their Executive Director, is responsible for introducing esports to the Lancaster County STEM Alliance, PDE, and the Emerald Foundation. In 2018, Orange County high schools launched a regional competitive esports league with the support of the Samueli Foundation. The goal was to document possible connections to socio-emotional learning, team-building, STEM learning, and school engagement. They also explored paths for young people to participate in competitive esports that go beyond just team play and include event organizing, web development, shout-casting, game analysis, and other valuable support roles.