Three days a week, you can find children at Huntington Memorial Library in Oneonta playing Minecraft as part of the library's efforts to develop so-called STEAM programming.
Educational focus on STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — has recently begun to include an A for art into the acronym as educators recognize the importance of developing creativity alongside STEM.
“We really wanted to start bringing the library into the STEAM education age,” Huntington children's coordinator Anne Van Deusen said Thursday. “Minecraft was incredibly popular and we decided to have a Minecraft club.”
It ended up being so popular that the club is always waitlisted, and during the summer the demand was so great the library held two separate club sessions.
Microsoft introduced Minecraft: Education Edition, which touts the educational benefits of its creative and collaborative potential. Many classrooms in the country incorporate it into the curriculum. This year, Minecraft released a revamped Oregon Trail.
Two of the three days the library offers free play, where the computers are open on a first-come, first-serve basis. A more structured club happens Friday, where Van Deusen said kids are given challenges.
On Friday, the third floor of the library was filled with kids ages seven to 12, clicking at keyboards with their left hands as they maneuvered a mouse with their right. Bridget Stith, who oversees the club, said the children were building mini-games in their shared world.
“In the past we had them recreate a library, a house, a maze or incorporate pieces of art or classic architecture into what they were constructing,” Van Deusen said.
Mal Seimeca, 9, who was protecting her character from a monster, said she loved the creative aspect of the game, which she has been playing for two years.
“I've always loved building things and playing online makes it easy,” Seimeca said. The best thing she's built, she said, was a roller coaster and mansion with her friend.
Minecraft is a multi-platform game that offers up an endlessly customizable world. Its pixelated graphics make it look like a game from 20 years ago, but it is one of the most popular games available. Microsoft bought it in 2014 for $2.5 billion. Players postings videos of renderings on YouTube garner millions of views.
It's blend of creative engineering in implicit in the name: mine and craft. It begins with an empty world that a player fills or destroys with different tools, using only blocks to build with. This improvisational style of play is what attracts kids and educators alike to the game.
Van Deusen said there is a code of conduct for using the game in the library, and she finds that kids are very helpful each another, collaborating and problem-solving to create in the game.
Amelie Cej, 7, and her brother Rowan Parish, 9, were sitting next to one another, Rowan offering help when Amelie asked.
“I love making stuff,” said Cej.
Parish said his favorite part of Minecraft was the TnT.
Whitney Bashaw, staff writer, can be reached at (607) 441-7218 or [email protected]