STEMpathy with Minecraft Education Edition
I’ve yet to find a curriculum standard for which Minecraft: Education Edition couldn’t help by demonstrating students’ understanding. The flexibility of Minecraft: Education Edition is one of its strengths and is limited only by the creativity of the project designer. Linking authentic learning to project-based experiences for teachers and students is my Global Minecraft Mentor passion. In 10 months I’ve shared nearly 30 lessons on the Minecraft Education Community Site supporting engineering, science, empathy, literacy, history, technology and even physical education. Each lesson is provided in such a way that it could be used exactly as is or adapted for a unique classroom twist. They are also designed to help students thrive not only in popular curriculum standards but also in the 21st century competencies essential for modern careers and lifestyles. Skills such as Character, Citizenship, Communication, Collaboration, Creativity and Critical Thinking are all on display as students work as a team to solve problems or accomplish missions. Here are three of my favorite created lessons that stand out:
The Mars Generation
In our students’ lifetime humans will colonize Mars. Talk about authentic learning! This project spawns up to 30 classmates in a BioDome on the Martian surface with limited resources and elements essential to sustain life, or tougher yet, thrive. Together, students have to employ 21st century skills and knowledge of various STEM curriculum standards to ensure their prolonged survival as a group within the BioDome. The Mars Generation allows teachers to ask heavy questions and explore deeper learning while also joining the gameplay and perhaps contributing to this fledgling Martian community.
The Dragon Realm
Writing prompts take many forms, but combined with dragons? It rules! In The Dragon Realm the entire class spawns into a throne room of a devastated King who just had 12 dragon skulls and 12 skulls of his ancient ancestors stolen by protagonist neighboring communities. The class is begged to head out into these three beautiful kingdoms to retrieve these magical relics before they can be used to bring forth the 13th Dragon – this means certain destruction for the known world. Students pair up, grab a camera and portfolio and head out to mine and return these skulls to the throne room. The fill their portfolios with their adventures and in the end, they write an individual, paired or full class story based on the shared experience. This lesson provides Dragons, Skulls, Evil Doers and in a school-safe manner for all ages.
Empathy Education in MinecraftEDU
“There’s no place like home” and this is never truer than when a home just doesn’t work for the situation a family finds themselves in when difficult times strike. In Extreme MinecraftEDU Makeover – Home Edition, students aid up to eight Minecraftian families who are in need of a new home. Students express and grow their empathy abilities as they read the difficult situations the families are in and then seek to solve through building solutions for their family’s needs and wants. A sense of giving to other without seeking reward and all in a safe place leads to making this Minecraft: Education Edition lesson my most downloaded and praised lesson to date.
My advice for any other teachers looking to make engaging Minecraft: Education Edition lessons to share with the community is to find a curriculum standard in a subject of interest. Next, find an authentic real-world situation where this standard is used. Create your Minecraft lesson as a mission for students to complete that directly involves the demonstration of understanding for that curriculum standard or 21st century competency. Finally, publish and let others test your work. Embrace the community’s ability to make your lessons better and even more flexible. The first lesson is the hardest and also the most satisfying. Empathy Education was my first lesson and even though it is popular I’m glad I continued with the 20+ more that followed.
Benjamin Kelly (@BBTNB) is an experienced Global Minecraft Mentor, Published Educational Researcher, Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, and grade 6-12 technology teacher.