We believe that within every child lies a passion for learning. LearningPlunge is a 501(c)(3) with a mission to ignite that passion through educational games in which critical thinking, knowledge, and fun are rolled into one.™ LearningPlunge has a proven track-record of successfully teaching children about the U.S., fostering a love of learning, and of connecting communities of businesses, parents, teachers and children together one tournament at a time.™
GeoPlunge, our flagship program, was invented by Alan Fishel, a Washington D.C. lawyer. While coaching his son’s third grade soccer team, Alan discovered that nobody on the team could name the home states for Miami, Seattle and Detroit. Alan set out to change that — and GeoPlunge was born.
Alan Fishel pictured here with Geographer of the United States, Lee Schwartz
When I invented GeoPlunge, I wanted to create a game that would teach U.S. geography in an exciting and engaging way that would not feel like learning. I also wanted it to be fun for adults so families would want to play together. We tested the game in all kinds of schools, including Title I schools, gifted and talented centers, and regular classrooms and found that all types of learners enjoyed the game.
In 2004, we held our first GeoPlunge tournament in a Title I school where my law firm has a business partnership. The enthusiasm in the school that day was overwhelming. This was a school with no frills. At the time, there weren’t instruments or any equipment in the music room where we held the tournament. Yet the students were passionate about the game and they didn’t realize how much they were learning.”
Based on that experience, I approached the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, which organizes partnerships between Washington, D.C. schools and city businesses and law firms. Together we held our first multi-school tournament with eight schools participating. And it’s taken off from there.
Today, we hold two tournaments a year in Washington, D.C. with 350 – 400 students participating in tournament play each year and far more participating in GeoPlunge clubs held in a number of those schools. In some schools, teachers or specialists like librarians coach the teams. In other schools, volunteers from local law firms and businesses go into the schools on a regular basis and coach the students in the GeoPlunge clubs. We’ve heard of many groups of students in these clubs bonding over GeoPlunge as if they were on a sports team. And while this activity involves education rather than sports, there are similarities, such as how engaged and excited the children are while playing and how important teamwork and sportsmanship are to their ultimate success.
The tournaments are organized by volunteers from area law firms and businesses. These organizations also contribute to the cost of the tournament. We have worked closely with the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution to have a great venue for the tournaments.
Over time, parents, teachers, administrators and others have suggested that we make GeoPlunge national. Members of the American Geographical Society (AGS) learned of GeoPlunge and attended a tournament. We are now working together with AGS toward bringing GeoPlunge to cities across the United States.
We have been told many stories about how being involved in GeoPlunge has spilled over into other subjects by motivating students to gain strong study and preparation skills that they then use in their other classes, while also giving them confidence that they can succeed in learning and bolstering their self-esteem. In short, we have seen it create a virtuous circle of educational success by getting students excited about learning, which motivates them to learn more, which gives them confidence that they can learn and succeed at a very high level. And the circle continues.