A Remote Build Competition from Wales: Designing inclusive Rugby Clubs!

24 Aug 2021

Stories from build challenges and esports competitions continue to surface within the Minecraft: Education Edition Community around the world. Educators value how these experiences support all types of learners in collaboration, communication, problem-solving and critical thinking. This story comes to us from Wales, where the Club of the Future program invited students to compete remotely in a build competition, presenting their final projects through video streams to a panel of judges. Sarah Snowdon, Digital Skills Specialist at Prodigy Learning, shares her story and a few testimonials on the positive impact from this type of content for any Minecraft learning community.

For an introduction on hosting Minecraft: Education Edition build challenges and esports competitions, visit our Teacher Academy resources for everything you need to get started!

Converting to a Try with Rugby!

In January 2020, Prodigy Learning joined forces with the team from Minecraft: Education Edition, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and Hwb, the Welsh Government’s digital platform for learning and teaching, to create a unique competition for schools across Wales.

Led by Sarah Snowdon, Digital Skills Specialist, Prodigy Learning, the ‘Club of the Future Challenge’ was launched in October 2020. With the fast-evolving nature of the global pandemic, an in-person launch was traded for a video and announcement on the WRU Game Locker website, and also simultaneously on the Hwb website. This exciting partnership totally embraced the Welsh nation’s love of rugby and the digital gaming platform, Minecraft: Education Edition, to enhance learning and engagement within the classroom in line with the Curriculum for Wales.

Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and Welsh language said: “The WRU Club of the Future challenge has showcased the collaboration, communication, problem-solving and critical thinking opportunities that Minecraft: Education Edition offers. I’m proud to say we’re one of the first countries in the world to take the progressive approach of providing school staff and learners with free access to this software, through Hwb, and it has been wonderful to see the inclusive and imaginative projects that have been submitted.”

The competition was open to all learners and Schools across Wales and gave students a chance to design and build their own virtual rugby club of the future within Minecraft: Education Edition. Competition entries had to consider a wide range of (curriculum links to) Areas of Learning and Experience including Expressive Arts, Health & Wellbeing, Humanities, Language & Literacy Communication, Numeracy and Science & Technology.

WRU panel of Judges walk through the Build live

WRU Community Director Geraint John commented, “This is a unique initiative which uses the power of rugby and digital innovation to engage young people in learning. We are thrilled to join forces with Hwb and Minecraft: Education Edition to bring this exciting project to life for learners during what is a challenging time for all.”

Although the competition had a fantastic start, the challenges of the global pandemic (schools closing, distance learning etc.) had an impact on schools being involved in the competition. Additional support webinars were put in place to help teachers take up the competition remotely and an extension to the submission date was introduced. This resulted in more than 340 teams of learners making it through the school competition round and onto the regional competition round! Finally, 12 teams of learners made it to the finals on the 7th of July 2021, at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.

Entries were submitted in Minecraft Worlds and conveyed an understanding of the local and global environment and the need for sustainability, along with the importance of creating inclusive facilities. Rugby clubs are often the heart of local communities, so learners had to learn about the values of rugby and how this can be used to provide everyone with a positive experience and contribute to the long-term health and wellbeing of society in Wales. The learners demonstrated many innovative ways to engage people of all ages in rugby clubs within their own community.

Minecraft: Education Edition Director of Learning Programmes Justin Edwards mentioned, “Minecraft: Education Edition was delighted to be chosen to allow students the opportunity for this amazing challenge.  Students demonstrated amazing collaboration, communication, problem-solving and critical thinking skills through an immersive and inspiring project that they clearly loved completing. Congratulations to all the students involved but also to the teachers, WRU and HWB for enabling student learning in this way.”

The final presentations were delivered virtually via Teams to the panel of WRU judges who were in the Principality Stadium in Cardiff (home of the Welsh Rugby Union).

Susie Tinker, Strategic Customer Engagement Manager at Minecraft Education, opened the day with praise for all the submissions and congratulations to the 12 finalist groups of learners. It was great that many groups chose to share coordinates to demonstrate key features of their builds, which James Protheroe used to navigate through the worlds in real-time, enabling the judges to see on big screens in the room. The presentations were outstanding - from all ages of learners!

Justin Edwards interacting with Learners

After each of the groups of learners presented to the WRU judges, all the schools came back together to hear who had been chosen as the National winners for each age group. However, this was not before Justin Edwards, Director of Learning Programs at Minecraft, joined live to talk with the learners directly. A real treat as the learners got to ask Justin their all-important Minecraft questions!

The students and judging panel were excited to have been joined by Wales and Dragons backrow Aaron Wainwright, who expressed “It was nice to see how rewarding the competition was for the pupils. Young people have had a tough year so to have the escape of using Minecraft as a tool to be creative while learning is great.” Aaron announced the winners along with Wales Women’s captain, Siwan Lillicrap.

Aaron Wainwright and Siwan Lillicrap announcing the winners

Huge congratulations to the National winners:

  • Foundation Phase category: Darran Park Primary.
  • Key Stage 2 category: St. Michael’s Church in Wales Primary school.
  • Key Stage 3 & 4 category: Porthcawl Comprehensive School.

Although only three teams of learners could be announced as the National Winners (representing Foundation Phase, Key Stage 2 and Key Stages 3&4), the feedback from all the finalists was amazing. One team proclaimed, “it’s been the best day ever!”

James Protheroe, Darran Park Primary Assistant Headteacher and MLC Assistant Project Manager said: “Bringing rugby into this Minecraft: Education Edition project has been amazing from start to finish. Getting learners to think about the role of the rugby club in their own community has made it current and relevant. Using Minecraft with a focus on changing the future is so powerful for learners.”

All parties involved in the ‘Club of the Future Challenge’ are keen to see this become an annual competition for learners across Wales. Therefore, there are plans to take heed from the “Your dreams have to be bigger than your memories” quoted by Mike Ruddock, Welsh rugby union coach, to make this competition a recurring experience for learners.

Sarah Snowdon and Geraint John distributing prizes to winners online