In order for a student to be considered college and career ready, a few of the essential overarching skills they need to embody include: creativity, problem solving, and collaboration. At Pioneer Middle School, the Pioneer MineCraft club, led by advisor Gio LoBianco, provides students with the opportunity to practice these essential 21st century skills in a game based environment.
The Pioneer Minecraft Club meets once a week in the Library Media Center. This club is exceptionally popular, and often times, has a wait list of two to three weeks. Over forty different students have joined the club this year alone. So, what exactly is Minecraft? Minecraft is often referred to as a “sandbox game,” meaning that the world students create within the game is based on their own imagination; there are no levels and no directions. Students break down and mine resources (blocks) that allow them to build personalized structures that look and function in the ways they desire. The more resources a student gathers, the more elaborate the structure they can build. Additionally, they can create circuits to build working machines such as automatic doors that open and close when the character approaches it, or creating a catapult. Ownership and self-efficacy are developed within this student driven, constructivist environment.
Every week students can play in different ways. The only hard and fast rule is that students cannot destroy something another student has made. Students set personalized or collaborative goals and depend on the expertise within their peer group in order to teach one another. The club also supports the development of social skills, as students work together in an environment that relies on communication, resilience and decision-making. Another exciting aspect of this gaming environment is that many students who aren’t traditionally successful in the classroom, have found engagement and success in this learning environment, and positioned themselves as leaders with their peers.
There are multiple opportunities for classroom teachers to extend the learning derived from the Minecraft Club and integrate it into the classroom curriculum. Teachers could create assignments for students to demonstrate understanding of the setting within a novel, develop math challenges, or represent geography skills by utilizing Minecraft as an instructional or assessment tool. “Minecraft develops creative thinking in the same way that chess develops logic and systems thinking- by promoting intense, focused mental engagement” (Spencer, 2017). In this digital age, Minecraft provides a platform for students to construct personalized understanding, utilize their creativity, partner with their peers, and foster creativity. What an outstanding opportunity for Pioneer students!
By: Colleen Root, CA BOCES Professional Development