26th March 2014

Minecraft in the classroom

Jonathan Field

Today’s guest blog is from Zoe Ross of Happy Education.  Zoe was awarded funding of £28,000 to develop her idea, GeoCraft, in our GeoVation Challenge, How can we help British businesses improve environmental performance, supported by the Environment Agency.

GeoCraft enables schools and local businesses to work together to encourage learning about sustainability through Minecraft,  a hugely popular video game set in virtual 3D worlds made up of cubes of different materials. Using Ordnance Survey data, it would stimulate children to think about environmental challenges and ideas to solve these, and could be fed back to the local business to implement. Zoe tells us what’s been happened since winning funding form GeoVation.

‘That was the best lesson ever!’

This is music to the ears of any teacher and something that I’ve been lucky enough to hear on many occasions in the last few months as I have been trialing our GeoCraft project with the Year 6 pupils at Yorston Lodge School.

Pupils’ delight in and enthusiasm for the club has been palpable and their feedback and suggestions for improving the project has been invaluable.

MineCraft building tatton park mansion

Building the Tatton Park mansion as part of our work on Knutsford

Ordnance Survey maps in Minecraft

The GeoCraft project uses Ordnance Survey’s OS OpenData within Minecraft to help students to learn about the environment. Using Minecraft allows us to introduce the students to Ordnance Survey data as they navigate their way around the virtual worlds we have built. Furthermore, using Ordnance Survey data has enabled us to recreate towns and places in Great Britain, making worlds that are more relevant to the children, teaching them about their local environment and what they can do to protect it in the future.

Minecraft world of knutsford

Navigating through the town of Knutsford showing Ordnance Survey data mapped in Minecraft

To facilitate this further, we use Minecraftedu, a version of Minecraft that has been especially designed for classroom use and enables a safe and secure world with greater teacher control.

The ubiquitous game of Minecraft recently passed ten million registered computer users and many of the game’s players are children, with parents and teachers starting to realise that there is much potential for Minecraft beyond simply playing a game. The work the pupils undertake and produce develops many skills, such as collaboration, creativity, problem solving and experimentation; essential skills to help our young people develop. The project is being incredibly well received by pupils, parents and teachers alike, this has given us the impetus to roll out the pilot to two further schools allowing us to perfect the teaching resources and approaches.

We are planning to launch officially, with other schools joining the project, in September 2014.

Winning the GeoVation Challenge

Winning the GeoVation Challenge has enabled us to develop, test and refine resources and Minecraft worlds and teaching resources. The money, support, advice and networks the Challenge has opened to us have been excellent as has the encouragement and enthusiasm in the project. We have refined and developed our ideas over the past six months as we implement them; some elements we thought would work in the classroom did not, others we had not at first considered were far better and, as is usually the case in education, a simple approach based on sound teaching and learning, rather than focusing on what Minecraft can do, is proving to be the most effective.

The pupils of Yorston Lodge have been blogging about their work here – www.geocraft.org.uk/blog.

Follow us on Twitter: @geocraftclub and Facebook: Geocraftclub, to keep up with all our latest developments and progress.

Zoe