Minecraft is a game that most people certainly have heard of. If you do not know about the game, ask a child who will likely to give a very enthusiastic response that can last up to several minutes (or hours depending on the child). As of the time I wrote this article, Minecraft was the No. 1 best-selling PC game in history. Minecraft has been so successful that it caught the attention of Microsoft, which purchased the game as well as the founding company, Mojang, in 2014.
I first heard about Minecraft about three years ago when numerous students in my class constantly talked about it. Hearing about this game so annoyed me that I wanted nothing to do with it. The concept of Minecraft sounded confusing to me, and I could not figure out why it was such a popular game with children. About a year after I first heard about it, I caved in and bought the game to check it out. As the saying goes: “curiosity killed the cat.” It definitely killed my skepticism about the game, and I became hooked within just a couple days. One night I played Minecraft so intensely that it was 1 a.m. before I realized it.
For those who don’t know about Minecraft, it is an open-world concept game where players can build, mine, fly, explore and do just about anything their heart desires. Players can be in creative mode, which allows them to build with unlimited blocks and fly around the world they are in. They also can be in survival mode, where they create weapons using materials they find; obtain food by hunting animals and planting gardens; and build an appropriate shelter to protect themselves from monsters that are ready to attack or blow up the players. Minecraft is available in multiplayer mode so numerous people can build in the same world at the same time.
Parents and teachers need to be in tune with what children are engaged in and find ways to use it as an educational tool. Minecraft is one of the rare games that can be used in every classroom subject and beyond. Children are still fascinated with the game, so this is our chance to capitalize on it and use it to our advantage.
Here are some ideas for you to use Minecraft with your children or students:
–Math and Minecraft go hand in hand in several ways.
One, it is very easy to integrate area and perimeter in the game. Have the child build something with a square shape in Minecraft, and after they are done they can count the blocks on each side and calculate the area and perimeter. For older elementary and junior high children, integrate volume as well and have them find the answer. Each block in Minecraft is one meter long, wide, and high. Older students can calculate the exact area and perimeter using that information.
Another topic that usually is introduced in fifth grade is finding the area of composite shapes. A teacher approached me and told me that her students were not doing well in this topic, so I taught it using Minecraft to see how the students would respond. As I broke the composite shape down into two different shapes using different blocks, it clicked for the class. Students’ scores in this topic went up dramatically, and it was all because of the game.
–You can use Minecraft in science by allowing students to be creative.
If younger students are having a difficult time understanding ecosystems, there is a world that can be downloaded that introduces different habitats. For older students who are learning about the respiratory system, download a world where students can explore how air travels down the trachea to the lungs and ultimately to the blood.
If you google the subject you are looking, for followed by “Minecraft world,” there’s a good chance that a world already has been made.
–Reading and Minecraft work very well together, believe it or not.
You can have the child recreate a scene from a book they are reading and have them act out what they have read so far. You can also have them place signs in order and have them type the sequence of events in the story. Signs have many uses, such as creating a story and having the child read it out loud. They also can be very helpful with comprehension, phonics or any other topic the child is not doing well in.
–Minecraft can also be used in social studies, foreign languages or art.
You can show the child a building from the 1700s and have them recreate it by using the features being studied. Signs can also be used to label different parts in a house in the language they are learning. In art, students can recreate a painting to the best of their ability to identify shading, tint and more.
Minecraft can even be used as an assessment tool. You can get real creative and make rooms with four doors as the answer choices. Place the question on a sign on the side of the room, then place chests behind each door. The right answer choice can have food of some sort, while the wrong answer choice can have rotten flesh.
These are just a few ideas on how Minecraft can be tailored to the needs of the child to increase learning in whatever subject is being taught. This game has the amazing power of immediately engaging students, so I challenge you today to help your children or students by implementing ideas such as this to bring learning to their level. A big thing holding us back is fear, so for the sake of the children, let’s get out of our comfort bubble and do what’s best for them.
D.J. Rambo teaches technology at Pease Communications and Technology Academy.