Our latest MinecraftEDU project was a collaboration with our school science teacher. Over the past few years, as part of our joint weather unit, his classes would research the historical architecture of different geographical areas of the United States and how those buildings had been adapted to fit their local climate. In the past, students would build models to reflect what they had learned, but often would become too time- and material-intensive. This year, we decided instead to make virtual models in Minecraft!
Students were grouped into teams of three or four and assigned a different region of the US and a representative example of its local architecture. This is known as "vernacular." The regions and architectural styles were:
Students spent time carrying out research on their different areas, noting climate and geographical features. They also noted the features of their assigned house type and how those features were built to adapt to that climate. Several groups made great use of Instagrok! During the students' research, I began setting up the Minecraft environment where the students would build their virtual houses. I used the Edumicator's "Six Group Area" map, a template from the MinecraftEDU world library. I designated five of the six groups as building areas for the groups. In each area, I put a chest with various building materials in it. I figured that I would allow the students to pick the correct materials for their models. (Side note: I created this environment just days before MinecraftEDU version 1.7.10 build 20 became available, which would allow you to copy chests with materials in them...I had to manually fill each chest!) In the sixth area, I created a series of trapped chests that would give students extra building materials and also other items they could use to furnish their houses once they were complete. Later, the students took to calling this area "IKEA."
Once the students had completed their houses, I wanted to present their projects in a way that could be shared beyond their classmates. Since our computer labs use Macs, the students learned how to use the "screen record" feature of QuickTime to create screencasts of them leading tours through their houses. The students really enjoyed this part. Several groups recorded themselves over and over again to get their timing just right! Here is a playlist of their screencasts:
The students really enjoyed this activity. I was amazed at some of the creativity they displayed in deciding how to represent certain features of their houses within the Minecraft environment. I'm also curious...is anyone out there from the regions we researched? Were we pretty accurate?
5th grade teacher in Princeton, NJ. Passionate about education, technology, and the New York Giants!