Live Action Role-Playing (LARP) at school


Picture taken from

On a regular basis, we have people visiting our GEMH Lab to learn more about each other’s work, share common interests and explore the possibilities to work together. In September, we had Mariska Kool and Erna Terpstra visiting the GEMH Lab.

Mariska and Erna are involved in a very special project; they teach children by using Live Action Role-Playing (LARP) games. LARP games can be seen as ‘real life learning’; children learn general life skills that they don’t learn that much in a regular school curriculum, such as problem solving, communicating and collaborating effectively, thinking outside the box, organising, and setting and obtaining your goals. Children participate in real life games and organise these all by themselves.

At the OPUS, a real restaurant is currently up and running, all organised by the children. The children wrote a business plan, performed a marketing analysis (including the analysis of competing companies in the neighbourhood), and recruited investors for their restaurant. Everyone in the school including teachers and supporting staff are involved in this project.

Another LARP-project that is being set up now is the parliament. Currently, parliamentarians are recruited at OPUS. In this parliament, children will discuss and decide on how they will behave towards one another and determine the rules of living and learning together at OPUS.

Mariska and Erna see many advantages of LARPing at school: children are free to behave as they prefer and since it is a real life situation, everyone can react in a way he/she is most confident. The game is a safe space to be everyone and everything you like, whereas in the regular school curriculum you have to comply to specific rules and you are obligated to find the one and only correct answer to a problem. In LARP games, knowledge that is needed for the specific real life situation is taught during the game. In addition, Mariska and Erna think LARPing can be especially helpful for children with behavioural or emotional problems that feel excluded at school. By using games, these children feel connected to the school system and the community again, and they will have social interactions they otherwise would not have. LARPing is a free, safe and playful way of learning real-life skills.

Mariska, Erna and the GEMH Lab have interests in teaching youth new skills by using alternative methods that are able to immerse youth and are absolutely fun to do. Mariska and Erna are interested in collaborating with our GEMH Lab to research their new LARPing approach for educating youth. So far, no research has been conducted in the Netherlands on LARPing.

In Denmark, however, there is a LARP-school where all classes are live action role-playing games. Although 40% of the children at this school have a clinical diagnoses (ranging from learning problems, autism, ADHD, to giftedness), the school performs as well as regular schools. One of the teachers at this Danish LARP-school explains that by using games a safe and stimulating environment is created in which students that had difficulties at regular schools now feel motivated again to learn.

Soon, GEMH Lab will plan a field trip to OPUS to learn what LARPing really is about. We are very much looking forward to this!

Update May 2020

Other resources on LARP:


Aniek Wols
Researcher at GEMH Lab

I am interested in how and why applied games for mental health work, with a specific focus on the influence of one's mindset, motivation and expectations.


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