So you don’t know the difference between a Creeper and a Zombie Pigman? That’s no excuse to not take advantage of a once in a generation opportunity teachers currently have. Even those with absolutely no knowledge of pop culture, or what kids are into, have at least heard of Minecraft. Teachers working in elementary and middle schools have for sure seen students wearing Minecraft shirts and heard students talking about their adventures in this addictive virtual world. Minecraft is so popular with young children, that some Youtubers get tens of millions of views for just posting videos of themselves playing the game. So if you want to hear your kids literally scream in excitement and beg to get to class every day, I’m going to help you understand how to use this phenomenon in your classroom.
For those unfamiliar, Minecraft was created by Mojang, which was purchased by Microsoft in 2014 for $2.5 billion. In January of 2016 Microsoft released Minecraft Education Edition (which replaced the system created by TeacherGaming called MinecraftEdu) with the aim of taking something that kids love, and bringing customizable, immersive lessons into the classroom. In less than two years Minecraft Education Edition not only has a library of ready to use lessons that can be sorted by age and content area, but also has a database of standards that users can look through. A couple months ago Houghton Mifflin Harcourt actually created an updated Minecraft version of the Oregon Trail that contains lessons along the trail. Not only that, but Microsoft has also partnered with the Roald Dahl estate and the Smithsonian for new Minecraft lessons and comprehensive lesson plans to go along with their virtual worlds.
There are a couple drawbacks to Minecraft Education Edition though, and one of the big ones is cost. The program, which used to be free, now costs $5 per student, per year. Microsoft does, however, offer volume licensing for larger schools and districts. There are also some tech specs that may or may not present issues for schools with older technology. In addition to having the most engaged students you’ll ever have, Minecraft Education Edition also has some really amazing benefits. One of these being that students will have access to Minecraft Education Edition at home, and can review lessons and complete projects or homework while outside of the classroom. Just imagine your students’ excitement when you tell them that their homework is to go home and play Minecraft. Minecraft Education Edition also have a very large library of step-by-step instructions on how to set-up and effectively use Minecraft Education Edition, as well as instructions on how to create your own lessons and customizable worlds.
Below are just a few of the lessons and worlds that are available to download for teachers through the Minecraft Education Edition Lesson Plan Library. Lessons range from elementary to high school, and many of them have accompanying worksheets that can also be downloaded.
Students will follow a path through Addition World into three large zones. In the first zone students will be exposed to several different addition problems. This is a great opportunity to provide guided practice to make sure the students understand how to play the game. The students will find more addition problems In the second zone, except this time the students will have to build the result of the addition problems with Minecraft blocks. In the third zone, the students have the opportunity to create their own problems and have their friends solve them.
As I mentioned above, the Roald Dahl Estate has partnered with Minecraft Education to create several lessons. The Great Mouse Plot is an activity that helps students understand each element of plot. By imagining plot as a cake, students will learn all of the ingredients they need for a story such as a beginning, middle and end, plot, good and bad characters, suspense, drama, comedy, a cunning plan, truth, and more.
Step by step, they will identify the basic structure of a plot and create a storyboard. In groups they will map out the rising and falling action, and explain the main events of the story of The Great Mouse Plot by pointing to different elements of the plot structure.
The students will then think of an autobiographical event in their life, exaggerate a part of the story to make it sound more interesting like Roald Dahl does (Roald Dahl’s story “Boy” should be used as an example). Students will then storyboard and create their story in Minecraft.
The object of this lesson is for learners to develop a working understanding of dynamic ecological concepts, causal relationships, and content/concepts mastery. Students will use the artifacts they have collected in the “Dynamic Ecosystems Project” to build the digital version of their ecosystem in Minecraft. Each member of the team will work on a different component of the project-living and nonliving. Throughout this activity, students will work cooperatively and collaboratively to create the digital ecosystems.
In this lessons, students will hop into a boat and explore several different cells. They must then take photos of each organelle. They will research and identify the organelles, writing a few lines about it in the portfolio. Once they have completed that, they will then create their own cell, present it to the class, and give classmates the opportunity to guess what cell they built.
Prior to reading Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game, students will work on their inference skills while assessing a digital version of Ship-Trap Island. Students will have approximatelty 30-45 minutes to collect data of what they find on the island. They may document their findings with a Minecraft camera or portfolio, and will focus on the following questions:
- What oddities did you discover on the island and why might these be odd?
- What was most shocking about the island? Why?
- What assumptions can you make about the story based on your exploration?
- Based on your findings of Ship-Trap Island, who are the main characters and what are they like.
- Write a summary of what you think the plotline of the story may be. Be sure to use evidence from your exploration to justify your summary.
Students will work in teams to present a design for a rollercoaster that will include three levels of slope designed from mild, exciting, and extreme. They will begin by sketching out a rollercoaster with at least three ‘bumps’ with different slopes, and figure out the potential slope of each bump. They will also have to critically think of any challenges or problems that may occur. They will then test and tweak potential slopes and use signs to show slopes of at least three different bumps.
When they are finished, students will create an Office Mix Screencast and answer several questions on the screencast, while taking their classmates on a ride. Students will be asked what problems occurred when building their rollercoasters, how they solved them, how different slopes affected the ride, and what they learned about slope.
This lesson has several materials and resources for teachers to use prior to the students working on the activity. Prior to building in Minecraft, groups of students will draw ray diagrams on graph paper to ensure understanding before entering Minecraft. Students will then create ray diagrams by placing an object at 2f, between f and 2f, at f and between lens & f . They will then calculate the magnification obtained in each of the case in 2 using the ray diagrams drawn on paper. The groups will the have to calculate the magnification obtained in each of the case in 2 using the ray diagrams in Minecraft.
Just like with the Convex Lens lesson, this comes with several videos and resources that teachers should share with the students prior to beginning the immersion into Minecraft. Once inside Minecraft students will have several options. They can begin by designing and creating a Minecraft world illustrating an area in their state that has experienced deforestation. They must clearly show the before and after effects of deforestation from two different dates. Once the design is complete, they can take a screenshot demonstrating before and after for each point in time. The second option allows students to design and create a Minecraft world illustrating present day deforestation in a particular area and take a screenshot. Next, they will predict the effects of deforestation in the same area as it would look in the next 5-10 years
This activity also has a few extensions that ask students to read a report about the Oso landslide and construct an argument for or against citing evidence from their research. Another extension asks students to design a PSA campaign about deforestation in their local area and make an actual community campaign.
Students will use Minecraft Creative Mode to create several structures with specific surface areas. The first building they must create is a shelter with a flat roof of their size. They will then be asked to create a pyramid of their size. Finally they will need to create two structures of their choice. The first must have a surface area of 25 m2 and the second must have a surface area of 50 m2. After completing each structure, students will take screenshots, create a PowerPoint presentation, and make a card/slide deck with their images and their math.
For those with the old MinecraftEDU accounts, there are still several lesson plans that are only available to schools that purchased licenses prior to 2016. I am including them in this post to not only give options to those with the old system, but to also give ideas that may inspire some of the new Minecraft Education Edition users.
This world provides teleports students to several different habitats and biomes. After researching about an animal, students can teleport to the habitat or biome and build their animal, display a sign sharing specific traits, then teleport to other areas.
Students will enter the world and begin exploring. Students will find signs posted all over the world. A total of 10 signs will have fraction math problems written on them. Students can work in teams or independently to solve these math problems. Teachers may download an accompanying worksheet and use it with their students.
Take students on a virtual tour of Colonial Williamsburg. Let them walk in the same footsteps of Washington, Jefferson, and other 18th-century figures. Students will explore several important buildings to the colonial and Revolutionary War periods of Williamsburg’s history.
Students will move into one of three stations with different tasks that will require them to calculate the speed of objects. After each task they will return to the starting point and pick a different task. The activity will continue until all tasks are completed. The three tasks are:
- Measure your character’s running speed.
- Measure the distance a minecart travels based on its time traveled.
- Measure the difference in falling speed between a cow and a chicken.
A companion question sheet is provided so students can demonstrate the knowledge gained. Upon completion of the tasks, there is also an optional free build area within the map. This activity is suggested to be used as reinforcement or review, as students will be expected to know and understand speed equations before use.
While following a loop of parkour and challenges, the students will solve 12 problems involving multiplying decimals. The students will solve 12 problems involving multiplying decimals. The answers are entered into number pads to open sealed doors. Colored pads are placed around the loop in order to teleport teams to a variety of starting points. Below are a few of the math problems that are included:
76 x .8
34.2 x 1.9
1.64 x 79
.27 x 54
Students are tasked with surviving in a scenario similar to Brian Robeson’s from Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet. Students will have to build a shelter, gather food, light a signal fire, and several other tasks. This can be used as a follow up activity once the book is finished. The creator admits that he included as many details from the book as he could, and added some features that weren’t included in the book but fit into the scenario. If students explore the map enough they might find some hidden treasures as well!
Students are introduced to the concept of atoms, molecules, amino acids and proteins through a world populated with molecular structures.
Exploration is encouraged through a scavenger hunt. On or in each amino acid and protein are hidden chests. To efficiently find the chest players need to make note of the information provided within the world and use to solve clues and puzzles.
The protein and amino acid areas fit with post-14 curricula. However the world is also appropriate for younger age groups where the concepts of atoms and molecules are being introduced.
A second area is populated with Royal Society of Chemistry landmarks. These represent sites of special interest to chemical sciences in the UK and serves as an extra enrichment activity.
Three quiz books are also hidden around the world along with empty books that students can use to jot down their answers. The topics of the book cover amino acids, proteins and the RSC area.
Students will explore the world to find items that can described with a fraction or find something that they can apply the Pythagorean theorem to. Students can also create a new object or element to explain any math principle.
There is also an area that allows students to explore cells and try to identify the different organelles, and build their own cells.
The Quantum Physics Minecraft world has students explore three different quantum physics lessons. Each lesson explores one of three basic principles of quantum physics:
- Observational Dependency – Some of the earliest experiments that lead to modern quantum physics showed a surprising result: observing certain things on the subatomic level (like photons) actually caused them to have different properties. In the Minecraft world, you could think about this as a block that, when you look at it from the west, is stone but when you look at it from the south it is a pumpkin.
- Superposition – Quantum systems exhibit superposition: they exist in all of their possible states at the same time until they are observed. Imagine placing a block in the Minecraft world that could be either a block of stone or a pumpkin. If no player was observing that block, it would exist in a superposition of stone and pumpkin. As soon as it was observed, it would become either a block of stone or a pumpkin.
- Entanglement – Quantum entanglement refers to fact that pairs or groups of particles created together can have a special relationship to each other: their states are correlated (that doesn’t mean that they have to be the same, just that they are related to each other). Experiments have demonstrated entangled behavior many times and shown that the entangled particles ‘sync up’ their quantum states instantly, no matter how far apart they are. That’s a little surprising because the particles are exchanging information faster than the speed of light, and nothing is supposed to go faster than the speed of light. In Minecraft terms, this is like having an entangled pair of our superposition stone/pumpkin blocks and placing them on opposite sides of the map. As soon as one of them is observed — let’s say it becomes a pumpkin — we observe it’s entangled counterpart and find that it, too, is a pumpkin.
- Scientists are actively researching entanglement and some believe it could lead to breakthroughs in computing and even quantum teleportation…
Minecraft is more than just a passing fad, and gamification is a rising educational trend. It’s certainly not too late to get started using Minecraft to make your lessons ones that students will never forget. Even if you’re intimidated after reading this, trust me that Microsoft does a fantastic job of providing resources that teachers can use every step of the way. As a Middle School Teacher I have students who are very vocal about their passion for Minecraft, and others (especially 8th grade students) who feel like they’re too old for Minecraft, but I’ve never seen a student not enjoy the experience of playing Minecraft in school. Look into it today, I guarantee you that your students will thank you in a way that you’ve never imagined.