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Students excited about GBMS Gaming Club
Park Elementary Students show leadership
Great Bend Middle School instructor Tyler Rydman poses for a photo with the GBMS Gaming Club. The new after-school club provides an opportunity for students to be involved in school, learn new skills and be part of a gaming community. - photo by Courtesy of Great Bend USD 428
Members of the Park Elementary School Leadership Club give a presentation to the school board. - photo by photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

Two clubs at Great Bend schools were featured at last Monday’s USD 428 Board of Education meeting. The board heard presentations on the GBMS Gaming Club and the Park Elementary School Leadership Club.

Not every student is an athlete, but there should be opportunities for all students to be involved in school activities, Great Bend Middle School social studies teacher Tyler Rydman said. With that in mind, Rydman and GBMS Principal David Reiser launched the GBMS Gaming Club, a new group for online video “eSports” enthusiasts.

“What is eSports?” Rydman asked, quoting from a newspaper article he’d read. “It brings people together and when they’re working together it’s like any other team sport. They’re all for each other. We’re trying also to teach them to have compassion and good sportsmanship. That’s what we’re doing with video games. It’s a team sport that any kid can get involved with.”

Rydman noted that gaming comes with a tradition of friendly ribbing but he teaches his students to “treat each other like you treat your family.” So, while a little “trash talk” is normal for gamers, “we avoid that,” he said. “It gets to the point where it’s unhealthy. I try to make sure that everyone feels welcome.”

The club allows Rydman to teach team members new skills, including innovating and working as a team. ESports can also lead to career opportunities, he said.

“There’s all kinds of different things. There’s coding, writing scripts like you would for a TV show or a movie or play, there’s audio design, animation (and web design) — a lot of these skills are going to translate to 21st-century jobs.”

What they play

“Right now we just have Rocket League but we’re going to expand,” Rydman said. Rocket League is a an arcade-style vehicular soccer video game published by Psyonix.

“When a lot of these kids go home after school, this is what they’re doing already,” Rydman said. But he believes gaming as part of a club that meets for an hour after school is more productive and more constructive.

“It’s been a lot of fun so far,” he concluded.

Park Leadership Club

The Park Leadership Club is a group of elementary students, most in grades 5 and 6, who are active at their school. Student & Family Advocate Alana Blessing had several of the club members attend the board meeting, where they wished board members a “Merry Christmas,” thanked them for what they do, and talked about why they joined the club.

“We try to give back to the community as much as possible,” Blessing said. In previous years before the pandemic, when students were able to move about more freely, they visited long-term care facilities where several retired teachers live and the children got to hear their stories.

Students look for opportunities to be helpful at school and in the community, Blessing said. “Several years ago, we’d go to Walmart and we could just go and pick up all the carts, push them in.”

Students briefly explained why they wanted to be part of Leadership Club. 

“The reason I joined was so I can help others and to talk to other people,” one student said.

School board member Susan Young praised the program as “an awesome character builder.”

Social Studies teacher Tyler Rydman talks about the GBMS Gaming Club at last Monday’s school board meeting. He said the club is available to any student who is academically eligible and wants to learn new gaming skills. - photo by photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune