It Started As a Simple Idea

October 13, 2017 Alex Fleck

Rachelle Mills: Teacher at Toronto Catholic District School Board

​It started as a simple question to the class. 

“We just got access to use Minecraft in the classroom, and we are going to start by connecting it to what we are learning in math. Any Ideas?”
 
After a brief pause the hands shot up in the air.
“We are learning about area and perimeter, let’s build the classroom!”
“Let’s build the school!!”
“Yea! We can turn the school into a game!”
“We can spawn the teachers, and then defeat them!”
 
It was at that moment I realized that my life would never be the same. I had never played Minecraft before. I went to a workshop by chance. I had no idea what I was in store for. I had no idea their reaction would be this intense!
 
The planning continued and the students came up with this...
To start the game, you will need to locate the hidden buzzer outside the school. When you press it, the door will unlock and you can go inside. You need to explore the school and find the kindergarten class. When you enter, the door locks behind you, and you are trapped. Something spawns and tries to attack you, you defeat it, but you are still locked in. You see a math word problem written on the blackboard, find a paper, write the answer, and drop it in a chest. If the answer is correct the door unlocks and sets you free. You then need to find a grade 1 classroom, and the same thing happens over again, only the questions and the monster get a little harder each time as you progress through to grade 8. Finally you escape grade 8, and the door to the school yard opens. There you will find a huge carnival to play in with roller coasters, water slides, bouncy castles, and even a petting zoo!!
 
By the end of the 45 minute period, the game was planned, the students divided themselves into groups, and they were ready! We spent the next period reviewing area, and how to measure the hallways and classrooms. Students were given a floor, and they went to every classroom and recorded every square meter of every classroom using a meter stick.  They drew out a bird’s eye view floor plan and filled in all the measurements.
 
We built the entire school in 4 days. 28 grade 4/5 students. 3 computers. Everyone got a chance.
 

​​A red-brick public school constructed in the Minecraft environment
 ​​​​
They worked it all out themselves. They were so motivated to be able to play their favourite game in class. They took it home at night, and even over Easter weekend! They added more details than I could ever imagine! Secret rooms in the library! Secret tunnels that started in the boy’s bathroom and took you to hidden lairs, all while using a scale of 1m to 1 block.
 
Word got out in the school about what we were doing, and before we knew it we were collaborating with other grades, trying to create math word problems that were age appropriate for each grade.
 
We are now working on the best monsters to spawn, and all the different ways we want to share our creation.
 
One little spark has turned into a forest fire, and there is no way I am calling the fire department. You don’t need to master something in order to teach it. Take a facilitator’s role, guide their learning, but put the students in the driver’s seat. Kids know so much about Minecraft, teachers know so much about education. Work together to create something inspiring!

•••

​Rachelle Mills is a grade 5 teacher in Toronto who's excited about incorporating interactive gaming into the classroom. ​Learn more ways you can incorporate Minecraft and edech tools into your classroom​ at education.microsoft.com​Get started with Minecraft: Education Edition here​ and set your students free to create!​

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