11-13 yrs old
14-18 yrs old
Government, Politics & Civics
Reading and Writing
Students build and populate this well-ordered city of over 1,000,000 people.
March 6, 2017
Chang’an was my first major project with my students several years ago. This post details my initial reflection.
I was a guest on Colin Gallagher's MineChat series and in this episode we fly through Chang'an together and chat about Minecraft in the Classroom.
For this year’s project, we added in a mannequin challenge at the conclusion of the build.
Wikipedia - Chang’an
The extensive Wikipedia entry for Chang'an.
I created this large-scale, multi-class lesson as a summative assessment to support my unit on China during the Middle Ages. Content objectives focus on social structure and commercial and technological development, and on the spread of Buddhism and the influences of Confucianism on government and civil service.
The Tang Dynasty was a Golden Age for innovation in China and Chang'an, with its massive population of both skilled and unskilled workers, was home to thousands of artists, philosophers, monks, and civil servants. Open air markets and public spaces like parks offered all citizens opportunities to interact with their neighbors and world travelers on a regular basis. Nobles and farmers could be seen mingling on the same well ordered streets.
Students are asked to put themselves in the roles of these citizens and to capture a moment in time. What was daily life like for a busy farmer? What kinds of food did he grow and where was it sold? How did the civil servant earn his position and what was his social status in the city? How about the young mother of three who worked with a cobbler? What were her dreams and expectations for her children? What did the traveling entertainers think of this grand city? Where had they travelled before arriving and what stories could they tell about far off places?
Chang'an was a well designed city. What can we tell from studying the layout? Does it make sense viewing it from a modern perspective? What kinds of businesses are popular and where are they located? Where do the merchants and artisans live? Cites do not get this size without careful planning and a clear understanding of the needs of its citizens. What do cities provide for people. What should they provide? How and where can the great innovations and ideas of the times be seen throughout the city? Buddhism is spreading throughout China during this time period and temples are popping up all over the city. Where else can you see Buddhist philosophy in Chang'an?
This lesson is in three parts. I've included details to complete parts two and three below.
Students need to determine their Minecraft experience level.
The map is divided up into blocks based on the actual layout of the city. Each numbered cell represents a city block. Some building sites will have multiple buildings on them while others will only have one.
Special city blocks:
Additional build options:
Initiating an image search will bring up multiple images detailing a reconstructed Chang'an. Examine these images to better understand Chinese historical architecture.
Students will write 2-3 paragraphs about the residents of the homes or the workers in the civic buildings and market stalls. I ask my students to tell me the names and ages of the family members, what the parents do for a living, a detail or two about their job, what their religion is and how they worship, and what they like to do in the city with their spare time. Lastly, they add why this is a great city to live in. I emphasize the use of descriptive words and sensory experiences.
Each student generates a day in the life short story outside of Minecraft. This makes editing easier. Place a chalkboard outside the building and add text. Alternately, narratives could be assigned (or linked) to in game NPCs.
Have students use the camera and portfolio to document the construction process, final build, and narrative.
Math extension: Have student teams act as census workers. Assign each a series of blocks and ask them to interview the occupants and collect demographic data. Use a spreadsheet to analyze the data.
Expected outcomes include:
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