National Videogame Arcade encourages education through gaming

Date Posted: 11/08/2015

Children on a workshop at the National Video Arcade.

The National Videogame Arcade (NVA) might not sound like the most educational of school visit destinations, but this new Nottingham venue offers a selection of playable exhibitions and workshops suitable for all Key Stages and with links to STEM subjects. Game on.

If you haven’t heard of it, it’s because the NVA has only been open for a few months.

The NVA has three floors of playable exhibitions about videogames. You can learn new skills, hear a talk or even meet renowned gaming experts. 

In Minecraft Marathons you can discover the gaming phenomenon that has taken the world by storm. Break and place blocks to build a world of your own devising in the Minecraft Room, or join in with the ever popular Spleef and Hunger Games tournaments in the Lounge.

Step back in time and see where it all began in A History of Videogames in 100 Objects, an ever-changing, interactive exhibition which gives you the chance to get hands on with gaming history.

Workshops linking to the National Curriculum

I asked Rachel Barrett from the NVA to explain how its workshops link to the National Curriculum.

“A big part of booking a school trip is having a discussion with the teacher to find out exactly what students will be learning in the classroom at the time of their visit, or if there's a particular project we can link to,” she told me.

“What we offer are a suggestion of workshops, showcasing a selection of programming languages and programs that can be tweaked to make them relevant to any projects or subjects you're covering. This adaptable approach means that we can feed into most areas of the curriculum.

Children on a workshop at the National Video Arcade.

“Take our Intro to Scratch workshop, for example. At the most basic level it links to the computing curriculum via examples of logic, algorithms etc, plus we can include problem solving and 'debugging' for more advanced learners.

“In addition, we can tailor the content to link into other curriculum areas. Let's say you're learning about the Victorians, the class can make their Scratch game about something they've learned, or they can make an online Victorian Scratch Quiz for their revision.

“In the short time we've been open (four months at time of writing) we've had English classes creating original stories on Twine, the interactive text adventure program, an Art class creating animated pixel characters, and a Science class designing the physics of a perfect jump in Game Maker.

“Of course we're most obviously fulfilling the requirements of the computing curriculum; introducing new languages, experimenting with problem solving, offering careers guidance etc, but gaming technology can be so cross curricular, it seems a shame to put limitations on it!”

Progressing to the next level: What to expect on a school trip to the NVA

Rachel went on to explain what happens on an average school visit to the National Video Arcade.

“Upon arrival (we open at 10am, most school arrive between 10:30-11:00) students gather for an introduction from one of our resident games specialists. Depending on the age and requirements of the group, these can focus on asking big questions like 'what is a game?', to discussing the various avenues of study within the industry.

Children on a workshop at the National Video Arcade.

“Then students are taken through the three galleries, exploring and playing on all the different games. Each gallery has a different theme, including 'History of Videogames in 100 objects', 'Mission Control', and 'Jump!'. The main gallery (currently Jump!) changes every four months, with each theme focussing on a different STEM subject.

“A room is provided for lunch, after which students take part in their workshop (mostly one hour). If there's time after the workshop, then it's free time in the galleries.

“We like to keep workshop groups at a max of 20 students, so for larger groups we hold two or three workshops (max capacity 60 students). During these visits one group will be in the workshop whilst the others are in the gallery, and they swap around after lunch.”

The NVA can also tailor a workshop for your class and it holds regular events for teachers, including the opportunity to feed into its education programme.

To find out more, or make a booking, call Rachel Barrett on 0115-881 3092 or e-mail

For more information visit

School Travel Organiser's Guide