I’m sure your classroom has already experienced the Minecraft phenomena, but in case you’ve missed it, Minecraft (minecraft.net) is an open sandbox game that allows players to construct their own virtual world. They can build structures, farm animals, mine for resources and much more. It has become amazingly popular with children of all ages.
This is an extract from the May 2015 Edition of UKEdMagazine. You can read the full version in the printed edition of the magazine (click here for information), or freely online in the web edition.
There are two different modes available within the game, to allow you to play it in slightly different ways; Survival Mode is a challenging mode where the player needs to fight for survival against other creatures in the world, whereas Creative Mode provides unlimited resources to build and create without limitations.
As a classroom tool I’ve mainly been investigating Creative Mode as it’s easier to build large structures quickly as there are no limitations on the resources you can use.
Minecraft can be played individually, or as a multi-player environment allowing children to cooperate to build and explore together. In multi-player mode they connect to a Minecraft Server on the internet or locally (running on a game hosted by one of the computers). It’s a relatively simple task to set up one computer as a host, and then allow the children to share a world and build together.
Minecraft is available in many flavours, including a Raspberry Pi version (pi.minecraft.net), a pocket edition for the iPad (bit.ly/uked15may01) and a special Educational version designed to run in schools (minecraftedu.com).
There are many ways that a teacher could use Minecraft with a class to teach different curriculum subjects. Here are just a few to get you started:
Minecraft and Numeracy
Minecraft can be used to investigate many 2D and 3D shapes such as prisms, cubes and pyramids. The buildings the children create can be used to pose numerical problems within a meaningful context. Ask the children to calculate the areas, perimeters and volumes of different structures that they have built. For example, what would the dimensions need to be to build a wooden box that could hold 100 granite blocks? Is there only one possible answer?
Minecraft and Science
The Minecraft world uses real-world ecological zones, such as forests, deserts and mountains. Children can relate their understanding of habitats and the environment to these regions, and explore them virtually. The wildlife within the game is limited, but the children could imagine the animals that might live there, perhaps using a tool such as Build Your Wild Self (buildyourwildself.com) to design animals for different environments within Minecraft.
Also, animals can be farmed and will need to be looked after, teaching children about the needs of living things. Minecraft also allows for models to be built, such as a giant plant cell (bit.ly/uked15may03) or an animal cell (bit. ly/uked15may04), a nice idea that was developed by Alex Gething @adgething. Models could be made of solids, liquids and gases using blocks. The building blocks available to use within Minecraft have very different properties from one another. This gives an opportunity to talk about materials and how we use them. Metals, such as iron and gold, are produced by smelting ores and sand can be heated to make glass. This can help to give children an understanding raw and manufactured materials. The website at (bit.ly/uked15may05) has some more ideas for using Minecraft in Science.
Minecraft and Literacy
Children can use their experiences within Minecraft as a stimulus for writing work. They can use events or locations within the game as a basis for writing stories and poems. Alternatively they could recreate buildings from books they are reading, rebuilding them within the Minecraft world.
Minecraft can provide children with opportunities for writing instructional texts. For example the pupils could build a house, then write instructions for other children to replicate it. They could even write their own guides to surviving in Minecraft for new players.
The blog post at bit.ly/uked15may06 has some other ideas for reading and writing activities using Minecraft.
Minecraft and Geography
Minecraft can be used to explore many geographical features. The Minecraft world includes features such cliffs, mountains, ravines, beaches and lakes.
Children could recreate their local area by building it in Minecraft. Working in groups they can plan and build streets, roads and buildings.
Many different rock types are included in the game as building materials; such as sandstone, obsidian etc. Children can find out about where these materials come from, and how we use them in the real world.
The game world includes lava, which will turn to stone when it meets water. This introduces children to the idea of molten rock which can then solidify, and so beginning a discussion about igneous rocks and the rock cycle.
Within the game, many minerals can then be “crafted” into other materials. For example an in-game forge allows metals to be turned into tools and clay into bricks. These processes give children a chance to begin to explore the idea of natural resources and how we find and use them. They can even explore farming!
Minecraft and History
Minecraft could be used to construct famous buildings from History, such as Egyptian or Mayan pyramids, or Roman and Greek temples. Children could investigate castles by building one of their own! Read some more ideas for Minecraft and History at bit.ly/ uked15may07.
Minecraft and Computing
Minecraft includes a …
Continue reading the full article freely online in the May 2015 Edition of UKEdMagazine by Clicking Here
Danny Nicholson is an independent trainer, PGCE lecturer and consultant. He is a former science teacher and now delivers Computing and Science training to teachers all over the UK as well as overseas. He regularly blogs about educational technology at whiteboardblog.co.uk and can be found on Twitter as @dannynic.
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