Making a Video Game “Score” with Design Thinking

Students in Ms. Barkin’s music class are conquering creativity and collecting coins as they compose scores to select Super Mario World levels. The month-long endeavor, which blends instruments and technology, begins as a cacophony of sounds and transforms into a harmonious viewer experience. Using design thinking, students create and perform original film scores that ultimately help them understand and analyze music in relation to their culture. Making music relevant truly takes this project to the next level!

While it’s typical to envision the design process with engineering, one peek into Ms. Barkin’s class reveals that designing can be as natural as breathing. Engaged and immersed, students experiment with music and video through the iterative process. First, they capture the sound effects and then they create the melody to suit the mood of their character and setting. Collaboration is inherent as they play their instruments in coordination with the Mario video. Students report the process as fun and creative. They truly appreciate the freedom they were given to express themselves, and it shows!

Behind the scenes, blending music curriculum and technology, or instruments, with digital technology grounds the project in the students’ realm. In addition to serving up the magical Mario motivator, technology serves as a collaboration and communication conduit. Ms. Barkin launches the assignment through Google Classroom and creates graphic organizers for her students using Google Docs. Videos of student performances are shared through Google Classroom.

Ms. Barkin is pleased with her first iteration of this lesson. “I think part of igniting a passion is meeting students where they are at and getting them excited about the composition process. I was hoping that working with video games would motivate my students, and I think that I was successful throughout this process.” With the excitement generated by fifth-grade students, fourth-graders are surely looking forward to Ms. Barkin’s second iteration of the lesson due to hit Spring 2018. Until then, please enjoy one of the current releases.

By: Steph Doty
 Technology Integration Coordinator
 Hopkins School
 @HopkinsTechLib / @BlendedTeaching
Cross-posted to


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