Accessible Learning in the Biology Classroom

Angela Davila is a teacher with Katy Independent School District in Texas. She recently had the chance to bring Minecraft: Education Edition into her 9th grade Academic Biology classroom. Read about her experience! 

As a teacher, you receive a variety of students every year, each with different learning aptitudes and motivation levels. My second period is a co-teach class with several special education students. Many of these students are on modified curriculum and may struggle with the standards we’re expected to teach. Some also find it difficult to stay on task or maintain attentionWhen I had an opportunity to use Minecraft: Education Edition to teach biology, they surprised me. Every single one of these learners became teachers to their peers as they coached them on how to use the program. When I asked the class to build models of DNA, my special education students were able to collaborate with their classmates while they solidified their learning through collaboration and teamwork. It was a beautiful example of how creative and analytical minds can come together to communicate and create a project that demonstratelearning. 

A Minecraft: Education Edition book featuring two images of DNA models. Text reading "DNA Model: The second model was to prove we know that DNA is a spiral shape."

This year, I’m teaching more English language learners than before. Many of these students are new to the country and have difficulty keeping up in class or demonstrating their knowledge because of the language barrier. One of these students usually learns with the help of an ESL paraprofessional who translates for me. This student was able to assist her group and help her peers on the assignment without using any words! The visual and cooperative environment of Minecraft meant they were able to use teamwork to build the model without any discussion. She was able to learn handson and complete her assignment without much instruction from me. Instead, she benefited from the modeling of her peers.  

Two models of DNA built in Minecraft: Education Edition

Finally, I have a student that I’m teaching for the second time. I taught him in the 7th grade, and now hes in my 9thgrade class. Both in 7th grade and this year, hes had great difficulty demonstrating knowledge on assignments, tests, and quizzes. During our Minecraft assignment, he led a group of people, showed them how to use the software, and even taught the other students how to complete the lab worksheet! In the past, this student had never passed a test, and at the time of this class, he had 13 missing assignments. He never turned in his work—even with reminders and parent contact. But in this case, hsubmitted not only his online work but also his accurately completed worksheet!

Overall, this activity showcased how learners can thrive in particular environments. Some students can sit down and complete an assignment with accuracy. Some can take notes and ace everything they attempt. For others, you have to appeal to their interests, and when they have that chance, they can demonstrate their knowledge in ways that a simple piece of paper cannot support. 

Learn more about the impact that Minecraft: Education Edition is having in classrooms around the world. If you’re ready to start teaching with Minecraft, head to education.minecraft.net.