Thursday, April 16, 2015

Habitat Study: What Do Animals Need?

Second grade is learning about what animals need in order to survive. We decided to experiment with using Minecraft as a way to explore more about that topic.

First, I created a guide for students to get started. I only included animals that are available in the 1.6.4 build 20 version we have running right now, but eventually I'd like to install the MoCreatures mod and give students many more choices. I wanted to include a research piece to tie this lesson more firmly into the curriculum, and I knew everyone could easily access PebbleGo to complete this part. I searched PebbleGo for each of these animals before putting them on the sheet so that nobody would be confused if the animal wasn't available.

We created our set of rules and expectations and reviewed them each time we met in the lab. Our project took three one-hour sessions. Most students stayed on-task, but a couple of students needed some reminders about the goal of the project: create a habitat that would enable your chosen animal to survive, and place signs around your area telling readers why you chose to build what you did. If you completed that part of the assignment, then you could make an environment that would not be a good habitat for your animal and explain why.

Reflections about this project:

  • I chose to use a pre-built world with individual building areas to keep students from getting in each other's way. I would do this again, but modify the spawn area to make it easier to get to your assigned work site.
  • I would use mods to make the project more intricate for older students, but this was a good introduction to Minecraft for 2nd graders. I think it would also work for 1st grade and maybe Kindergarten.
  • Having students sketch out their habitats with labels in a notebook before coming to the lab would yield better results. I had some kids who could not focus on the information part while in-game, so their projects would likely have been better quality with more work completed in-class. 
Check out some screenshots below:

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Mining vs. Minecraft: Diamonds

Check out the infographic below. What a great tie-in to geology lessons going on right now in our school! I would love to see more of these made by students, comparing real-life geology to that in the Minecraft world.

I'll be adding that to my list of future projects!

Mining Vs Minecraft - Diamond
Courtesy of: 911 Metallurgist

Monday, April 6, 2015

First Grade is Good to GO!

I met with Mrs. Hall's class for a second Minecraft session, and this time we focused entirely on learning the controls for Creative mode. The project we are beginning soon will be made in creative mode, so it was necessary that everyone be comfortable moving around and placing blocks.

First we met on the floor like always, and we discussed our rules. Everybody agreed that they were still applicable, and we didn't need to make any modifications. I demonstrated a couple of important things to know, like how to fly up and down and how to choose a block from the Creative inventory. We also discussed the answers to a few questions the class had written after our first meeting. These were the questions:

 How do you send messages to your friends?

 How do you dig?

 Do we need villagers in our city?

 How do you get a block and put it in your backpack or hand?

 How do you teleport yourself?

 How do you see yourself?

 How do you drink potions?

 Can you have animals in the city? (cows, ducks, pigs)

 If you want to make a building can you add a cave on top to make it have more details?

Many of the questions were answered by the resident 1st grade Minecraft experts. I couldn't remember how to see yourself, so that was a good opportunity to let the students take the lead. I told them that we would all have to figure it out together!

We got the students logged in to the server. I chose to use this map from the world library, because it would give each student a space to work without having to worry about other kids building right next to them. (Eventually I'd like to modify this map to make it easier for kids to find their own areas, using portals or teleportation stations or something - I'm still thinking about this)

The challenge today was for the students to build a house. This usually works well for a first challenge because it allows each person to challenge themselves based on their abilities (and I talked about this to the kids before we left the carpet). The kids who already know how to play Minecraft can build elaborate structures, while those who are just learning can feel accomplished with making four walls and a door.

The students did a great job working hard to make their structures. I think they are ready to begin our math project - Block City! Look for more information on that one soon!