Making Real World Connections in Minecraft: EE
Updated: Apr 27
I have continually been looking for ways to get outside of my comfort zone while incorporating Minecraft: EE into my classroom. We have been learning about sustainable environments in-class and I envisioned Minecraft: EE as the perfect way to demonstrate the benefits and challenges that we are facing as a global community. This being especially more ideal as we are moving towards a goal of a more sustainable world.
The physical features of a sustainable world were researched by the students prior to starting. We did this so we could construct a flat world that had these elements. Students determined it was important to have lakes, river systems and natural forests for animals and humans to thrive. The students enjoyed this immensely as they got to use TNT to give the lakes and river systems in our world a more natural feel.
I started the entire class in creative mode with the purpose of quickly building a small barn. Using border blocks, I created a large but limited space students would have to inhabit. The students were able to explore and gather their bearings and identify where important physical features were. I was also able to give them more freedom knowing they wouldn’t be able to go too far.
Once their barns were completed, I cleared everyone’s inventories and switched the game mode from creative to survival. At this point, students were assigned one animal (horse, pig, cow, chicken or sheep) and one crop (wheat, melon, pumpkin or beet) by rolling a dice. I also decided to incorporate the idea of bartering to help facilitate growth. I gave each student 30 emeralds that acted as currency that could be used to buy or trade for items. I constructed a trading post in creative mode where I had every animal and item. Students could trade with each other for a negotiated price or they had the choice of coming to my trading post. I determined the price they paid at the trading post by having them roll a six-sided dice. This tied in nicely with our data management and probability studies as students would have to consider the value of what they needed versus paying a reasonable price for it. This also deterred students from relying on me for items and forced them to become more self-sufficient or create strong trading partners. After each trade, students would document it using the camera and then write about the trade in their book and quill. This ended up being very useful as it helped them remember what they paid for items or compare with other trading partners. I would get students to spend the last ten minutes of each day to reflect and outline their accomplishments.
Throughout the duration of our project, I had students co-create some of the challenges each time we were in our world. This boosted engagement and increased the number of tasks that they were completing each day. By having multiple challenges, this allowed the students the freedom to choose what they were focusing on that day. For example, the students would have to craft all the required tools to farm (shovel, hoe, pickaxe, etc) by gathering resources around our world or students would have to find and trade specific resources with each other. Other highlights from the co-created challenges were acquiring every animal and crop, creating automatic wheat farms (using red stone that was mined from our world) and coding your agent to collect and replant your crops. We also focused on ways to recycle and repurpose items to help reduce the impact we had on the environment. This was purposeful as often students want to simply acquire as much of everything in Minecraft rather than focusing on gathering only what they needed. Students had to feed themselves, their animals and find ways to replant trees to make sure they would have enough.
Many of my students aspire to be famous streamers or YouTubers but don’t have the knowledge or access to equipment necessary to do this within their home. Each day, I would set up two students to “live stream” their Minecraft: EE challenges. Incredibly I was able to get students who rarely participate or engage in classroom discussions, communicating with me and the rest of the class for 35-40 minutes on a live stream. The students really enjoyed this task but inside that enjoyment was strong narration, links to prior knowledge and making connections to the real world. I have uploaded some of the samples to my YouTube channel. We would use Microsoft PowerPoint and a headset to screen record and capture their narration while playing.
About the Author: Ryan Magill
I live in Thunder Bay, Ontario and have been teaching at Lakehead Public Schools for the last five years. I am passionate about engaging students through the use of technology and am a true believer in the impact that Minecraft EE can have on students, especially students who may be unmotivated or disengaged.