International school uses game-based learning to raise student engagement and achievement

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PaRK International School wants its students to become collaborative and agile learners who impact and interact with our global society. To give students a more engaging and immersive education, the school introduced Minecraft: Education Edition in subjects across the curriculum. Teachers are exploring innovative new ways of teaching that harness students’ natural energy for gaming. Students find that their work is more fun, and they eagerly discover new ways of thinking that get them excited about learning.

PaRK International School provides its students with an education that gives them the skills and tools to be bilingual, curious, collaborative, caring, autonomous, and agile learners – all while achieving their personal best in a fast-moving world. The school not only understands the importance of technology in completing this mission, but it also strives to offers students a technologically innovative education that will help them interact with and impact our global society.

Teachers at PaRK International are constantly looking for best practices and new tools to give their students a classroom experience that encourages curiosity, resilience, and an open mind. “The values of collaboration and embracing change are expected of students, teachers, and staff members,” says Kyriakos Koursaris, the school’s Director of Educational Technology. “As a staff, we cultivate a mindset that can see these changes and adapt in the best possible way.”

One of the tools that PaRK International is using to achieve its mission is Minecraft: Education Edition. Across the curriculum, students and teachers are learning that this game-based platform can be the foundation for truly innovative educational experiences with real-world applications.

Unlocking a world of limitless learning

The Minecraft journey at PaRK International began in 2015 when the school participated in an international project in which students recreated the geography of their home country within Minecraft: Education Edition. A student team worked for six months to complete the task, sparking an interest in using Minecraft: Education Edition in other areas of the curriculum.

“We felt there were clear applications to history and geography, so we started with those subjects and then introduced the platform to other teachers” explains Koursaris. “Eventually our teachers started using Minecraft: Education Edition to teach math, English, science, arts, and biology. “With each successful project, teachers became more comfortable using the platform to teach in unique and creative ways in their classrooms.”

For many of the PaRK International students, Minecraft was already a familiar gaming platform —the school has a 1-to-1 device program so each student has a tablet, and most of them already had the Minecraft Personal Edition installed. One of the keys to the success of the Minecraft investment has been recognizing that students may be more experienced using the tool than the teachers. “Our teachers had to step out of their comfort zone and let students take control of their own learning,” says Primary and Preparatory Teacher Joana Simas, who helps teachers incorporate Minecraft: Education Edition into their lessons. “Teachers are there to put everything into context and help students make sense out of the subject, and they are more willing to take risks when they know their students can support them in using the platform.”

Teachers using Minecraft: Education Edition are also supporting each other on an international basis, through a global knowledge bank where teachers share lessons and access resources created by their peers. “When Minecraft: Education Edition came out, and lesson plans from educators from around the world were gathered in one place, it became much easier to access material and get inspired on ways to use it in the classroom,” says Koursaris. “More teachers started embracing the platform, and the wealth of resources—created by the community, for the community—was exciting.

Engaging students with real-world challenges

Teachers have solicited feedback from students about their Minecraft projects, and they’ve seen a very positive response. “With Minecraft: Education Edition, students are more motivated to participate in school activities and projects. They also feel more creative and take on a more positive role in supporting each other and even the teacher,” says Koursaris. “Students pay more attention to the problem at hand, and they follow instructions better. For teachers, it’s an introduction to the use of game-based learning and a motivator to explore other educational technologies in the classroom.”

“I learn more about history and geography because it’s easier to learn with Minecraft,” says one PaRK International student. “Work is more fun, so I go further with new topics than I used to. We also learn how important it is to cooperate with each other to complete each project.”

In addition to individual classroom lessons, students have participated in larger projects, including The Calvario Project, in which students use blueprints and architectural plans to simulate reconstructing public areas of Lisbon and modernizing urban living. The school is also developing a new project that will have students recreate a scale model of the entire city of Lisbon that can be used by other schools to explore the city as it was during the Roman Era.

PaRK International has used Minecraft: Education Edition to capture students’ attention in new and innovative ways while harnessing the effort and creativity students naturally want to put into an immersive gaming experience. The school has gained key insights into how to make a Minecraft deployment a success. “It is very important to identify early adopters and teachers who are willing to invest some time into understanding the potential of the platform, and how it can be used to demonstrate learning,” says Koursaris. “It’s also important to take it slowly and only try one new thing at a time. If teachers are willing to step out of their comfort zone, knowing someone is there to help them, they can achieve incredible things.”

To learn more about Minecraft: Education Edition and get started in your classroom, head to education.minecraft.net.