Robin Hayutin is a lawyer and an educator. After graduating from Duke Law School, she was a litigator for many years before pivoting to the education space. Robin served as Director of Legal Education for the Association of Corporate Counsel National Capital Region and now serves as Executive Director of LearningPlunge, a nonprofit organization with the mission to make education work not just for some – but for everyone!
To our shop: https://www.learningplunge.org
Kids Zone: https://www.learningplunge.org
Teachers Corner: https://www.learningplunge.org
Guide to using HistoryPlunge in the classroom:
Instagram (a history quiz every day in our stories):
I got hooked on history in a roundabout way. We started out by producing a geography card game that had a little history in it. Then when we saw how engaged students playing that game were, we decided to produce a U.S. history game. As we researched for that game, I learned more and
more. The more I learned, the more connections I could make, and I just wanted to keep learning. And that continues to be my personal goal and our goal as an organization – to help others keep learning in fun and engaging way.
2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?
History is a huge part of my personal life, as every day I am researching for social media posts, trivia challenges and new card games that we are producing. And nearly every day I learn something new.
3. How does history play a part of your professional life/career?
I am a lawyer by trade, and since law is based on precedent, a subset of history has always been a part of my career. Now that I work full time running an organization that focuses on U.S. history, I am immersed in it every day.
4. Why is studying/knowing history important?
History is important to understand how we got to where we are today. Understanding the debates that occurred during the formation and growth of our country helps us both appreciate the good things and also learn from past mistakes. Today, when election time comes, we decide whether to vote, when school starts, we go to our neighborhood schools. But we have these privileges because of trailblazers from history that paved the way, people who signed the Declaration of Independence, putting
their lives on the line, people who went to their neighborhood schools even though they knew each day would bring trauma so that they could be part of integration, people who risked jail by refusing to give up their seat on a bus, people who were arrested for voting because they felt so strongly that women should be able to vote. And there are thousands more examples. It is also important to know about and understand the debates that took place as our nation was formed, during the years leading up to
the Civil War, the post-Civil War and Civil Rights Movements. There are nuances to all of these eras, and knowing and understanding the history provides context as we move forward and shape new policies.
5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and
I really don’t have a favorite period of history. My favorite aspect of history is learning how the different periods and events tie together.
6. What is LearningPlunge and how did it get started?
We started out by creating a U.S. geography game called GeoPlunge. We took it into many classrooms of all kinds and noticed that the students loved playing. They were learning a ton and learning it quickly, but they didn’t see it as an educational game. They were just having fun. We
then started organizing multi-school tournaments in Washington, D.C. and attracted over 200 students each time. Many of these were held in the huge atrium at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and the buzz in the room was amazing to see. We received teacher feedback that the
tournament was an equalizer. Students that were already engaged in school liked to play and so did those who were not normally interested in school. One teacher summed it up by saying that it gives students that do not usually shine an opportunity to shine. Because many of our
players came from low-income communities, we formed a 501(c)(3) so that we could marshal our sponsorships into providing free programming so that all schools and students could participate at no cost.
Since we were often at the National Portrait Gallery, we began talking to that organization about collaborating on a U.S. history game modelled after GeoPlunge that contained portraits and images from the museum’s collection - and the result was HistoryPlunge. HistoryPlunge is
comprehensive and can be played by younger students, older students, and adults. We are now working on additional games that take a deeper dive into aspects of history.
During the Covid pandemic, we pivoted and provided online GeoPlunge and HistoryPlunge Tournaments for students. We also started virtual monthly trivia nights for adults because we found that adults like to learn too while having fun.
Games are helpful in teaching geography and history in so many ways. History often gets a bad reputation for being boring. Once students start having fun, they become engaged and want to learn more. Games change the way students view learning from something that is required,
to something that is desired.
Many students believe that they are not smart but when they play games with content, they tend to learn the content quickly and then they begin viewing themselves as smart. When teachers then teach history or geography in class, the students have a base knowledge and they become receptive and eager to learning more.
In addition to the content, our games are played in teams, so students learn together and work collaboratively, which they enjoy. The team nature also allows students to develop communication skills, leadership skills, teamwork skills, and we also stress sportsmanship. Our games
also involve strategy so that students learn to be creative and develop critical thinking skills.