As my son is very into Minecraft right now, I set up a world in which I can count his creativity and ingenuity as education. In our house, Minecraft is not a core curriculum for any subject, but it is a launching board for tough concepts as we create a fun environment for testing his knowledge of subject matter. What’s more, the social aspect of Minecraft has been very beneficial. Anywhere we go, whoever is there, no matter the age, my son is able to talk with them about Minecraft. If they don’t know about it, he informs them, if they are knowledgeable he talks with them about the various things they can accomplish.
What is Minecraft?
For those out of the loop, Minecraft is a video game that is basically virtual building blocks; though as it is played in a 3D virtual world with various game modes, it can be much more than just virtual blocks. If played on Survival Mode, your child can learn about basic survival skills as the game mirrors life in the way of needing food and shelter to survive. The game includes fantasy and danger by allowing for Creepers, Zombies, Skeletons, Endermen and Giant Spiders. These can be avoided by playing on Peaceful mode.
How I Used Minecraft for Education
I have used Minecraft for testing in Geography by having him find various biomes, and also by finding coordinates on his map. For Math, I have had him figure out how many blocks he will need in order to construct something. I test his critical thinking by having him construct something with limited resources that is fully functional. Also, I challenge him to collaborate with others by having him work on his challenge with his brother or a fellow homeschooling friend.
The first day, I tested his ingenuity in this world by giving him a chest full of supplies and he had to build a shelter on survival mode with only the things I included. I did this by creating a world in Creative Mode, on Peaceful. I then flew around to find a good location for his testing. The preferred testing location was a small island that was relatively flat. I put a chest there and gave him materials to use to build his shelter.
If you have never played Minecraft before, you can quickly learn how by using the Tutorial world that the game provides.
This is where my math was tested as I had to determine how much of everything he would need. If I gave him 64 blocks of cobblestone, would he be able to build what I am challenging him to build? Or should I just give him a tool that he can use to make a mud hut? If there are trees on the island, will he be able to use them as resources? What will he use for the roof? Will there be windows? Don’t forget the door.
Once the chest is complete, I save the world and exit. Then I have him go back into it on Survival Mode in Peaceful. There he is free from attack while he is working on his project. I had to make sure that my parameters were clear, otherwise he would run out of resources.
Another day, after learning about plants in Science, he had to build a farm adjacent to the existing shelter and he learned about the process of plant growth and harvesting. In his chest, I had to provide the tools he needed to prepare the land, get water to his location and the seeds he needed in order to plant, as well as the tools he needed to harvest. Once harvested, he needed additional resources to convert his plant into edible food.
As we used wheat for this project, he had to have a furnace with coal or charcoal so that he could make bread with the harvested wheat. Having learned about animal life, I also added fencing and animal eggs to his chest so he could have a complete farm with animals. The wheat he harvested could be used to mate his animals and build his livestock, that in turn could be used for food.
Pirate Ship Challenge
One day I challenged him and a friend to a race of creativity and speed by giving them both chests at a different location where they built pirate ships with only the supplies I provided. They both had the same amount of wood and wool to make a decent sized boat with a sail. I had to make sure to include things like fences, ladders, planks and things to construct a usable helm.
In Minecraft, there is not a way to make something like that move around, even on the water. You can make a small boat using the crafting table that is able to move around on water, but it is not something you can customize.
They competed for the best design, most realistic, most spacious and most intimidating. As iron sharpens iron, they both learned something about the other and about the game they love.
For a Geography test at the end of the year, I let him into the world on Creative Mode so that he could fly around and he showed me the various biomes that existed. He also had to name the types of animals that would be found there if it was a real place in the real world.
Using his map he had to demonstrate his knowledge of cardinal directions. He expounded on this by creating a map on paper of his little world and including a map key and labeled items and locations on his map.
Homeschooling Can Be Fun!
We both enjoyed being able to take a game that he enjoyed so much and make it part of his education experience. As he continues to learn and grow in knowledge, the possibilities abound for the continued use of Minecraft as an educational tool.