Independence Middle School opens gaming center, starts “Gamer Squad”

by Martin McConnell

Independence Middle School opened a video gaming center for students who want a change of pace when it comes to indoor recess. The space is also home to a new club, known as the “Gamer Squad.”

Sixth-grade science teacher Michaela Bloam dreamt up the concept of a gaming club early in the school year. IMS Principal Jamie Vanek had already thought about starting the club when Bloam pitched the idea. Vanek noted that he was “just waiting for the right person” to finally put the wheels in motion on the idea.

“The gaming room [idea] I brought, Bloam just took it to another level,” Vanek said. “She was the one I had in mind from the word go, but I wanted her to come to that conclusion herself. … We’re better for having her here.”

Bloam was then given the go-ahead to convert a school storage room into a game room.

The room is equipped with an Xbox 360, three Nintendo consoles and a crafting station. Playing games is core to Bloam’s philosophy both inside and outside the classroom, and she said it has helped make her unique as a teacher.

“I am a firm believer that the more fun you can have when you’re learning, the better it sticks,” Bloam said. “No one wants to sit and be bored and just write nonsense. You want to absorb it. You want to remember it.”

Bloam explained that Vanek was instrumental in helping the Gamer Squad come to life beyond giving the green light for the original concept.

“[Vanek] was like, ‘Tell me what games I need to buy. Tell me what things I need,’” Bloam said. “It just blew up from there, and when I pitched it to kids, there were so many people interested.”

Vanek is a vocal supporter of both the Gamer Squad and Bloam herself. He explained that Bloam has a connection to the students unlike any other teacher in Independence.

“She’s one of those people, not just professionals, that you see the sincerity and genuineness,” Vanek said. “When you walk into her classroom, it’s just a welcoming environment.”

The future of the Gamer Squad is in the hands of the squad itself, as Bloam noted that there will be tournaments and possibly even an e-sports team for the Blue Devils in the future.

“We have about 40 [students] that are in the gamer club,” Bloam said. “For the fact that it’s a brand new club, and we have that much already, it’s huge. Once we get the word out about it even more it’ll definitely take off.”

Since the club’s beginnings, it has held multiple tournaments, including Super Smash Brothers. In that tournament, the top winners had the chance to play against Independence Police Chief Robert Butler. ∞

Members of the Independence Middle School gaming club pose
with teacher and club moderator Michaela Bloam (front middle).
Photo by Martin McConnell.