Gone are the days of crowding around a wobbly card table in the basement or a trying to find some space in a cluttered dining room. Kids’ first Dungeons & Dragons adventures can now take place in their school library or the classroom itself thanks to a robust new educational initiative from Wizards of the Coast.
D&D’s new educator resources include a brand-new kit for teachers and parents who run after-school clubs, along with webinars from experts discussing how the role-playing game improves both emotional and basic literacy skills. An official curriculum aimed at grades four to eight is also being released this month. All are free.
“Anyone who has played Dungeons & Dragons can see the social-emotional and learning benefits associated with the game,” Wizards of the Coast’s Shelly Mazzanoble said in an interview with Polygon. “There’s so much reading, writing, math, as well as strategic and analytical thinking even before the game begins. Couple that with the collaboration, empathy, and the creativity innate to D&D and you have an almost perfect learning tool scalable for kids of all ages.”
While these educator resources are new, D&D in the classroom has been around for years. Zac Clay, a former full-time middle school band teacher, started working with kids in D&D school programs in 2018. Now a professional Dungeon Master, Clay still shares his time volunteering at his local middle school and high school D&D clubs. He’s seen the benefits of the game in action.
“I have many students who claim that English is one of their least favorite subjects, but they will absolutely devour a fantasy book, comic book, or any book relating to D&D,” Clay told Polygon. “I have students who say they don’t like math, but in D&D, they love to calculate how to get the highest amount of damage using different spells and magic weapons.
“In my experience, when it comes to literacy and competence in any subject, it’s a student’s passion and interest that drives them. I have seen D&D become the spark that ignites that passion for them where their normal school classes did not.”
The after-school club kit isn’t the first one Wizards has offered to teachers and volunteers, but the latest iteration includes all-new content for clubs — not just at schools, but at community centers, public libraries, and anywhere else a group can come together. Dungeon Masters don’t even need any previous experience.
“The after-school club kit we are offering now is brand-new,” Mazzanoble said, “and includes a copy of the recently released D&D Starter Set Dragons of Stormwreck Isle, instructions and guidelines for club organizers, a quick demo and learn-to-play guide for Dungeon Masters, easy-to-read character cards, a poster to advertise your club, and flyers.”
Clay already has plans to pick up the kit for future sessions with his own students.
“[It’s] exciting to me because it makes this amazing, creative game more accessible for everyone,” he said. “I wish that I had had the creative and social outlet that D&D provides when I was my students’ age. There was no D&D club at my school at the time, and resources to start one weren’t easy to find or understand. Now with the free after-school kit and even online resources like D&D Beyond, I think we’re going to see so many more clubs and student D&D groups starting around the world.”
As for the curriculum, Wizards teamed up with Young Minds Inspired to create a one-of-a-kind experience in the classroom. The colorful “Build an Adventure” digital teaching kit includes a game overview, lesson plans, and activities for students.
“We created turnkey teaching kits for grades four through eight that will take kids on a collaborative storytelling adventure utilizing language arts, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills,” said Mazzanoble. “No experience with D&D is necessary for the students or the educator.
“It’s a wholly creative experience, allowing the kids to express themselves through world-building and character creation and share their creations with others. Dare I say, they’ll be having so much fun they won’t even know they’re learning?”
Wizards of the Coast’s educational initiative is more than just a professional project for Mazzanoble. It’s a personal passion as well.
“I love the idea of introducing a new generation of fans to this game, especially because I’ve seen firsthand the positive benefits associated with playing,” she said. “D&D is a great equalizer. It’s scalable for all experience levels. It brings people together who may not have found each other otherwise. It provides a safe space for discovery and building confidence.”