Using Minecraft as a Learning Tool
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
I was first introduced to Minecraft by a parent. She shared with me how much it bothered her that her child constantly wanted to go home and play this game. I had very little knowledge of Minecraft other than it is a game and involves building. I decided to take this parent's dilemma to those who use the game — my students. During a class meeting, I chatted with them about the topic. We got into a debate about the uses of Minecraft. Many of them believed that it could be an educational tool. My response was, “Show me!”
Minecraft California Mission Design
The first Minecraft project idea came from Spencer. Spencer wanted to improve his social studies grade by creating a model of the California Mission San Juan Capistrano using Minecraft. Spencer brought his project to school and shared how it came to life.
He had to first research the Mission and find facts and important details that pertained to it. This information was noted and shared during his presentation in front of the class. He then applied his learning to the construction. Spencer’s mission had the look of Mission San Juan Capistrano (as much as it actually could inside of a video game).
Within his virtual walls were rooms that once existed inside the actual Mission. Spencer included a graveyard, sleeping grounds, a beautiful fountain, and many more intricate details. The layout was incredible, the design, impeccable. Spencer's ability to replicate something within a game awed us all.
We had a huge classroom discussion with Spencer after he finished his presentation. We learned more about the number of hours it took Spencer to build his mission, what he found to be difficult, and things he wished he could have done differently. Besides creating this masterpiece, Spencer was able to share the journey of failure and perserverance. Not only did Spencer learn about the Mission, he was practicing the art of design. So much more came out of this lesson than I had ever imagined. Spencer's project sparked the light in our classroom.
Minecraft Model Creation
The next project came from Dylan. Dylan wanted to use Minecraft for her free-choice homework assignment. The project started with Dylan arriving at school with a contract she created. Her parents signed it, I signed it, and she signed it. Her idea was to build the Eiffel Tower on Minecraft.
Dylan spent the first couple of nights strictly on research. She took notes, made a sketch of the Eiffel Tower, and then created a blueprint of how she planned to recreate it using Minecraft. She shared every step with me. Each day she came into our class meetings and shared her progress: "Today, I started working on the base of the tower. I found it hard to create the exact shape that I wanted, so I've been playing around with how I'm going to get it exactly how I want it."
I thought it was really neat how Dylan had one blueprint of what the Eiffel Tower actually looked like and another on how she planned to bring it to life in Minecraft. She did this because she knew the Minecraft blocks would not be able to shape exactly like the shape of the real Eiffel Tower, so her Minecraft blueprint looked more like it would inside the game (square and block-like).
Dylan worked and worked and then brought in her first attempt of the tower. She shared only with me the first time because she felt that it wasn’t exactly how she wanted it and was not a good replication of the Eiffel Tower. Dylan went back to the game and reconstructed. It was after the fourth time (talk about perseverance!) that Dylan was finally satisfied with her efforts. In the end, Dylan achieved more shape to her tower, added a fountain in the front, and a restaurant at the top. Her creation was wonderful.
Minecraft for the Setting
The third project idea came from Chris. Chris is reading Johnny Tremain with a reading partner. At the end of the week, partners create a comprehension assignment for each other. Chris’ partner looked up Chris’ superpowers (I shared this idea in my last post) and noticed one of them is Minecraft. The partner asked Chris to create the setting of the book using Minecraft. Chris brought in a detailed model that he created within the game.
I loved being a part of the audience, just listening to the how and why of his creation. Every part of the setting he constructed had a connection to the book. He attempted to make it look rustic and old similar to the Civil War era. It is so incredible how talented these kids are!
All three of these students set out on their own learning adventure to make these projects a reality. They relied on their own abilities to inquire and learn how to construct with Minecraft.
After Spencer’s presentation, Minecraft took off in my classroom. I purchased a couple of copies of the Minecraft books from Scholastic Reading Clubs. I am not the expert in the field of Minecraft so these have been important resources. I shared with my class that Minecraft will be my next Genius Hour focus. They are all eager to help me along the way!
Looking for ways to connect outside of your classroom with Minecraft? Check out this Minecraft for Teachers Google Group. There is also a site called MinecraftEdu that offers more of a classroom approach to Minecraft along with classroom discounts in purchasing.
Have you used Minecraft in your classroom? I’d love to hear more ideas!
Follow me on Twitter!
Thank you for reading!