Building a multidisciplinary history curriculum with Minecraft

As a History teacher and content creator, I believe we need to guide our students through active learning. This is the reason why I use a project and game based methodology in my classes. Learning through project work allows students to have direct, hands-on experiences applying their own knowledge. My students’ interests and choices are the purpose of our projects because they construct their own knowledge through interactions with the world, with myself as the teacher and the resources around them. In this way, as Dewey (1963) remarks, “the development occurs through reciprocal give-and-take, the teacher taking but also not being afraid to give. The essential point is that the purpose grows and takes shape through the process of social intelligence“.

According to Wan & Gut (2011), quoting Alvin Toffler, “the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn“, and this was the reason why I have chosen to teach History and Geography of Portugal through Minecraft. Students can bring History alive and recreate it, giving a personal and true meaning to their learning.

If the purpose is for the students to learn active and meaningfully, and if we assume the importance of considering their previous learnings, what should the teacher’s role be in this process?

Through this tool, I am offering my students several paths to learning: true success is based on knowledge, having control of the materials and the ability to know how to think for ourselves. Although teaching concepts and developing skills is imperative, we also have to give them freedom and encourage innovation, like using Minecraft, for example.

History contents intertwine in a multidisciplinary action, as we pose open ended questions and see our students create their own answers.

In a knowledge society, with growing demands for change and innovation, I uphold this approach as being effective in the process of teaching and learning. This way, students will grow to become more autonomous, critical, develop dynamic personalities with a spirit of initiative and good interpersonal and intrapersonal skills.

Having Minecraft as a blank canvas allows students to become true artists, trustworthy creators of authentic historical knowledge. Minecraft definitely changed the way the History curriculum content is being delivered, reaching the students in the most natural, active, inclusive and intuitive way possible.

Olisipo – Lisbon during Roman Era

Portuguese History
Domain – Iberian Peninsula – Roman Empire
Subdomain – The Romans in the Iberian Peninsula | Building Lisbon with Minecraft: Education Edition

Lesson objectives:

  1. Know and understand the process of the Roman conquest of the Iberian Peninsula
  2. Know and understand changes in the Iberian Peninsula during the Romanization

Currently, my 5th graders are working on their most ambitious Minecraft project to date: the students are recreating the ancient city of Olisipo, Lisbon during the Roman times, in Minecraft: Education Edition.

This is a topic of our National Curriculum and I found an historically and scientifically accurate documentary by Portuguese filmmakers and experts that uses Virtual 3D Architecture and narration to bring the two-thousand year old city of Lisbon to life. I decided to create this project in Minecraft: Education Edition to teach them, so the students are using the documentary (“Roman Anchorage in Olisipo” – The port of Lisbon in Roman Times), and I shared with them my carefully designed lesson plan, so they can build the ancient city in a one to one scale inside a custom-made Minecraft world, as well as add all the necessary information and historical elements to it.

To start, we prepared the World and organized the group workspaces on the board:

Then we established the project steps and divided the constructions for each group.

This project will be shared through the Minecraft Education website as a lesson plan and a world, so that other teachers and students from around the world can explore and study this incredible project.

Folder with photos


Joana Simas (@JoanaSimas) teaches History and Geography of Portugal and is an EdTech Coach at PaRK International School. A MIE Expert, she uses Minecraft: Education Edition with her 5th and 6th graders twice a week to complete History and Geography projects through project and game-based learning and blogs at https://craftingstory.wordpress.com/.