Craig Brumwell: Bringing history to life through game-based learning

Year: 2018 – Province: British Columbia

Transcription – Craig Brumwell-2018 Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence

[Black screen fades up to close-up of man in interview setting, against a mottled background. Music playing.]

[Caption: Craig Brumwell, Kitsilano Secondary School]

Craig Brumwell: The number one thing that contributes to my students’ learning is being invested in what they are doing. So, if they don’t have an interest, if they don’t have something that’s important to them—to feel like they’re doing this for a reason—there needs to be a bigger purpose for that, so we have to cultivate that.

[Craig speaking in the interview setting alternates with voice over accompanied by still photos, as follow: exterior of Kitsilano Secondary School; Craig gesturing to a heat map of North America projected on the wall, while several students listen; Craig and a male and female student examining something on a computer monitor; and an overhead shot of Craig standing on a large floor map of Canada, with several students sitting at the edges.]

Craig Brumwell: The perfect place for my students to learn would probably be outside, because technology lets us do that now; we’re not constrained by the classroom anymore. We can go out with phones, with tablets, and we can collect data and we can, you know, use apps that are going to analyze, that are going to allow us to take back into a computer lab and put into some sort of post-production or use in some sort of application like a geographic information system. So I think that the more we get outside, and the more we get to places, the better, and we’re lucky we can do that in this period. Technology positively influences my students because we don’t look at it only in terms of rich media and high technology. We look at it through a whole range, so I want them to be able to use their phones, to use their computers and tablets, to use the various platforms that we have in class, but I want them to get their hands dirty, too. I want them to go into our archive. I want them to look at the photographs, and see the handwriting and look at the newspaper articles and feel the trace of the author. And, so I think that in the best world, you are combining those old, traditional types of research and you’re leveraging it with the new technology, and then I think you’ve hit a homerun.

[Craig speaking in the interview setting cuts to voice over with video of Craig standing and addressing his fellow recipients with a microphone, with several listening, followed by a close-up of Craig speaking and then the audience standing and doing an exercise, before cutting back to Craig speaking in the interview setting.]

Craig Brumwell: My biggest piece of advice for pre-service teachers is to think in terms of ‘there’s no bad turns.’ That’s a useful way of approaching everything actually, where there’s opportunity in absolutely all situations, so keep your radar up for teachable moments, for things that interest you. If you’re interested in it and if you’re passionate about it, that’s going to translate to your kids all the time. Kids are super-intuitive and they’re going to pick up on that, so you have to be always looking on the horizon for new things, so there are no bad turns; there’s just opportunities.

[Fade to black.]

[Cut to white screen, with the Government of Canada FIP followed by the Canada Wordmark.]

Certificate of Excellence Recipient

Craig Brumwell

Kitsilano Secondary School
2706 Trafalgar Street
Vancouver, BC V6K 2J6

School telephone: 604-713-8961
School website:
Twitter: @CraigBrumwell

Subjects and grades taught: Social Studies 10 and 11, Geography 12, Physical and Health Education 9

Craig Brumwell has been fully integrating technology into his teaching practice for more than a decade. At the same time, he is a lifelong learner with a sense of wonder about the world who models a spirit of exploration, innovation and collaboration with students and teachers alike.

Teaching approach

Craig firmly believes that students must be actively engaged in their own learning. To that end, he is committed to fostering a spirit of anticipation and play in his students via game-based learning.

In the Classroom

  • Encourages students to be creative knowledge builders and problem solvers: team inquiry projects—on topics such as the fentanyl overdose crisis and the Trans-Mountain Pipeline—are often calls to action among the student body, with team members acting as peer leaders
  • Develops game-based learning environments: students examining the changing nature of national security trigger Second World War artifacts on their phones as they move around the school; a First World War game and website include historical inquiry and primary source research activities
  • Uses technology to create real-world learning opportunities (and a paperless class): through the political, economic and legal simulation platform The Civic Mirror, students create political parties, conduct elections, buy and trade properties and commodities, and hold a national court
  • Lays a solid foundation for learning: students create and maintain a code of conduct for the responsible and appropriate use of technology in class; at the start of the year, senior geography students prepare for group work by studying collaboration strategies and personalities

Outstanding achievements

  • Student attendance and achievement are both high, with senior-level class averages regularly surpassing 90 percent, even among vulnerable learners and those not inclined academically
  • Grade 12 geography students present at large industry conferences; another group is participating in a university research study on the impacts of climate change on urban forests
  • Presenting his game-based approach to other educators is a priority: he walks them through Vancouver to demonstrate his First World War interactive story, and presents at conferences and workshops across Canada and at a U.S. university
  • Won both the both the Governor General's and Government of Canada's History Awards for Excellence in Teaching in 2015 for his Second World War mobile game

Rave reviews

"What is delightful for us as parents about Mr. Brumwell's approach is that our kids become so engaged in historical and current topics, broadening their interest and ultimately improving their grades in a subject that was traditionally delivered in a didactic and ‘dry' way."

Head of school's Parent Advisory Council