Students’ Research Going Beyond Their Own Classroom With Minecraft EE
Being a relatively new teacher, I still get moved around from year to year. This year, I am at a new school and I have a great group of students, but many are very disadvantaged and uninterested with school. After establishing expectations for using Minecraft EE with my new class, I decided to branch into the science curriculum for our first major project using Minecraft EE. The students were able to choose an animal that is in Minecraft EE to research interesting information specific to that animal. I encouraged them to find information relating to what we were learning in our biodiversity unit. Afterwards, they investigated each animals habitat and what they needed to survive. We then tried to find an ethical and more responsible way of displaying these animals for other kids and adults to learn from compared to what we see in typical zoos and aquariums. After they completed their research on the animals and habitats, we planned and designed the layout of the zoo together. The students were very engaged and over a few weeks, I left the world open on my laptop throughout the day and students could jump into the world whenever they had extra time. The effort and attention to detail the students put forth was amazing throughout the build. They collaborated and really connected with their classmates. Each student constructed an appropriately sized exhibit which included information about their animal within it. We also added an NPC (non-player character) at every exhibit to act as a tour guide that the students could interact with to learn more by providing URL’s to additional interesting information.
Once we were finished the exhibits, we decided to add some more extravagant features for our guests. We created a roller coaster, maze, horseback riding and archery area just to name a few. Once we were happy with the final product, the students visited all of the animals and documented their trip through the zoo. The students used their camera and created a portfolio that included pictures of the animals, facts from the boards and interactions with the NPC experts. I created a scavenger hunt assignment that required them to ultimately find and record one or two facts from each exhibit.
I decided to take this a step further after stepping back from the project and looking at how great it turned out. I connected with a few of my colleagues in my school and we had two other classes import the world to complete the scavenger hunt and portfolio activity. I then exported the world to a few teachers in my School Board that use Minecraft EE regularly, and they hosted the world for their students. I was able to create a private group using Microsoft Teams to upload the Minecraft World, instructions and worksheet to make collaboration between my colleagues seamless.
Just when I thought the project was completed, I had some inspiration from one of my students who stated that the majority of YouTube ads were terrible. I replied saying how neat it would be to make an ad for our zoo. They loved the idea and I quickly tried to figure out how to make this a reality. By using Microsoft PowerPoint’s screen capture feature, I had students write, practice, record and then post ads for our Zoo to our classroom website. The creativity and execution for this ad assignment was encouraging. It only took most students 100 minutes to plan, write, practice and then complete the 30 second – 1 minute ad for our zoo. Of course, we shared these ads with the other classes and schools that visited our zoo. This was an incredible project that helped get my students engaged and motivated with many curriculum areas that they had little interest in prior to this activity.
I have posted a few videos of student work, progress updates and a final run through of the zoo on YouTube. Follow this link to my channel.
About the Author:
Ryan MaGill lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario and has been teaching at Lakehead Public Schools for the last five years. He is passionate about engaging students through the use of technology and a true believer in the impact that Minecraft EE can have on students, especially students who may be unmotivated or disengaged.