Running Together, Learning Together

I am in Anaheim today getting ready to run in another Tinkerbell half-marathon. It takes some drive to want to keep running to get to the finish but the medal at the end is going to push me. I am not a hero, I just like to run in this event because I am part of a large community of other people running for the experience.   I have a similar drive when it comes to mentoring students. It takes something out of me to actively look for opportunity and train students to be those leaders. However, the payoff is far more fulfilling than every arduous mile countdown along the way. Sunya wrote this about her experience: “Minecraft Education Edition has provided for me, and many other students, a creative platform for learning. I have seen the potential that it has for classroom activities and new innovations like introducing code builder with Minecraft Education Edition. In an elementary school program, I was able to introduce students to a way of building within Minecraft where 4th and 5th graders could simulate their own school on a different planet inside Minecraft. They had to envision a life on a different planet and decide how they were going to provide water and air, also needing to stay under a budget. Minecraft created a lesson where kids needed to exercise their problem-solving skills. Also Minecraft inspired code builder where students could learn coding through building in Minecraft by coding an agent to build something. Minecraft Education Edition has been an incredible learning experience for me and I can see its potential for an amazing addition to schools and the way they teach. “   Sunya was part of the team of mentors this year who worked with our neighboring elementary school to provide an after school program focused around solving a unique problem. We announced the program in January through a PTSA newsletter and the workshop filled to capacity in two days. We also had a waiting list. I think the program was a success in many ways, but it also was a milestone in a journey to prepare more leadership opportunities for more STEM students.   Last year I collaborated with another teammate and we set up more opportunities for mentoring with another school in Darrington, WA. Our students delivered mini-workshops to their middle school students including Minecraft and envisioning a new city center, 3D printing using Tinkercad, and gameplay to teach climate change awareness. Anne Lee, one of my beloved leaders and student mentors says this: “But out of all of the fun things we got to do, I think one of my favorite parts of the Darrington-STEM partnership is just being able to sit down and talk with the kids from Darrington. I always get to learn about how different our lives are in some aspects, but also how similar we are at the same time”.   We have hosted a girls Minecraft workshop and Hour of Code as another mentor experience. For us, and for these mentor students who now actively seek new outreach opportunities, the journey is worth the effort and output that may push them to uncomfortable places.   What is next? Students are creating curriculum and worlds for teachers in Minecraft Education Edition to personalize learning and address one of the Grand Engineering Challenges. Students will be mentoring other teachers now to create their own content based on our educational standards and curriculum. It is powerful to think these students will be driving the learning and the ripple effect that will cause. Tweet to me @wrenchey if you have ideas or want to brag about your own mentor students. I will be pleased to be part of your journey and retweet your work as well. I love this journey we are on together and I would love it even more if you ran that last mile for me tomorrow (please?).   Melissa Wrenchey teaches in a STEM High school in Redmond, She enjoys teaming and collaborating with peers and students; current teams include Minecraft Mentors, PBS Digital Innovators, CorelaborateWA teacher leaders and Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts.