MinecraftEDU has been one of the most popular tools in my classroom for the past two years. When I wanted to do an activity with it, I usually accessed MinecraftEDU's extensive World Library, and found what I wanted to do there. After about a year of accessing maps and guiding my students through activities that other teachers had made, I decided to take the next step and create my own map to give my students an experience that was custom-built to their experiences in my classroom.
I decided to use an math activity that I had done in class in previous years. It dealt with the connection between sample size in a survey and the reliability of conclusions. In the past, I had students take handfuls of different-colored candy from a bowl and predict from their handfuls what the percentage of each color in the whole bowl was. In my first draft, I created in a Minecraft world where students would mine different colored blocks of wool from a huge central block. I created the large block with six platforms surrounding it where students could mine the blocks from different positions.
I had some issues with this first draft; mainly, how would I get the students up to the platforms once they spawned into the world, and then how would they get their blocks somewhere where they could count and graph them? I played around with MinecraftEDU's teleport blocks and having the students teleport from a central location, and then teleport back to that location. I also wanted to be able to regulate when students could enter the mining area by wiring the platforms with redstone, but I hadn't had a lot of experience with redstone and didn't realize until later how involved running redstone vertically was.
So naturally, once it was almost completely built, I decided to scrap the whole thing and start over. In my next iteration, I decided to use different kinds of blocks instead of wool (more on that issue later). I also put the platforms on the ground, eliminating the need for teleportation. I created a "spawn lobby" with student instructions and trapped chests that distribute journals and quills for students to write their observations down as well (I modeled this lobby after MinecraftEDU user MisterA's design...thanks!) and created paths for students to follow to their group's platform. I also created a system where each platform had an external gate that opened to the outside and an internal gate that opened to the block pile. After some research, I also managed to wire these gates to a central lever that would simultaneously open the outer gates and close the inner ones, and vice versa.
I was very proud of my work, and was happy to have my students run through it. Of course, as is the case with these things, I found some bugs that would need to be worked out in a future edition. First, and most importantly, I made the sampling block out of different amounts of iron ore, sandstone, cobblestone, gold ore, and regular stone. I forgot (duh) that when mined, stone becomes cobblestone. This, of course, affected my students' final counts. I'll have to substitute another block for stone next time around. Also, I didn't realize that even though the gates were wired with redstone, they could still be opened. Luckily, my students mostly were able to follow my instructions, so they didn't wander off. Next time, I'll have to use an iron door, or other object that can only be opened with a redstone signal.
I was very excited to create a map for my students. I learned a lot about Minecraft by doing this. I'm so thankful for recent MinecraftEDU updates that enabled things like WorldEdit and being able to copy chests with contents inside. I can't wait to design my next project!
5th grade teacher in Princeton, NJ. Passionate about education, technology, and the New York Giants!