In 2009, Scott Laidlaw and Jennifer Harris founded Imagine Education as a New Mexico-based startup company to develop and market educational games. Since then they’ve been assisted by numerous business and community resources, including a Las Vegas, N.M., charter school and other New Mexico educators, Los Alamos National Laboratory summer interns and LANL’s Northern New Mexico Connect.
Their company is now piloting Ko’s Journey — the first in a series of games designed to teach math to middle school students through historical fiction — in six schools nationwide while marketing the product to public schools, charter schools and virtual schools worldwide. The company has made inroads with major publishers like Scholastic and McGraw Hill and with many New Mexico schools.
“This is a product with its roots and heart in New Mexico,” Harris said, “and we look forward to implementing our curriculum in schools throughout the state.”
An Idea Based in the Classroom
A former professor at Appalachian State University, Laidlaw moved to New Mexico to teach at Roots and Wings, a charter school in Questa that teaches core curriculum through project-based or “expeditionary” learning. When Laidlaw arrived at the school, its students tested in the 28th percentile for math, prompting Laidlaw and other teachers to experiment with story-based curriculum. “The kids loved it and wanted more,” Laidlaw said. “When test scores doubled, we knew we were onto something.”
A 2005 grant to study ancient cultures in Peru inspired Laidlaw to create Ko’s Journey. Harris, who has a background in corporate finance, added her perspective to the project. “Women often say they are not good at math or managing money,” she said, but “girls learn through relationships, and math is typically crammed down through mental skills. The games give us a way to reach girls and teach them critical math skills.”
Resources Beyond Imagination
Laidlaw and Harris were impressed with the business resources they found in New Mexico. “Our challenges are typical for a startup company, and we need touches of support to turn them into opportunities,” he said.
Those touches included Rio Gallinas Charter School in Las Vegas, N.M., which bought the game and paid for its development; master’s of business administration students from LANL’s summer intern program who are assisting with the company’s marketing strategy; and New Mexico’s educators, who have cooperated with the company on education standards.
LANL’s Northern New Mexico Connect recently provided Imagine Education an assessment of the educational games market through its Market Intelligence program. Market Intelligence also assisted with search engine optimization through its partner WESST Corp. — a nonprofit, small-business development organization — and introduced the company to people in the entrepreneurial support community. “We’ve received more support in New Mexico than we could have imagined,” Laidlaw said, “and it will help us get our product to market and grow a successful company.” For more information about Imagine Education, visit www.kosjourney.com.
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