Mendelian Genetics in Minecraft – 7th grade Science

Many years ago, and by many I mean almost 4, I wrote a piece about using Minecraft to explore sheep wool genetics. This was based on a meeting outside of school with several elementary age students. Last spring I was able to do a more extensive lesson in a 7th grade Science class. It was an ungraded enrichment activity for students to reinforce what they had learned about Mendelian genetics.

  • The world was built by a student on her own Minecraft account, saved and imported into MinecraftEdu.
  • In the spirit of pair programming, two students played on one computer.
  • Below is my rough lesson outline.
  • Here is a link to an article, (including a video) written for our school newsletter and website.

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World Premier of ‘Refugee Dash’ – a Minecraft Minigame

The critics have spoken: “Powerful!” “Moving!” “Makes an impact!” On Thursday, April 28, the world got it’s first glimpse of Refugee Dash, a Minecraft minigame where you experience the struggle of a Syrian Refugee. Last week the Seventh grade Global Studies students at Brentwood School gave their annual presentations for Human Rights Day (formerly know as Global Awareness Day). For the creative component of this project, one student used Minecraft to demonstrate her empathy and awareness of the Syrian refugee crisis.

This project is an example of how Minecraft can engage students in learning and facilitate understanding of serious events that occur in the real world. I think she did an outstanding job representing the war torn environment, the urgency to the situation and the dangers of the journey.

Trailer, photos and a description of the project are below. 

p1Refugeedash p2FreedomDash

Students gave their presentations in classrooms and then at lunch time the computer lab was open with 5 computers set up for students to play Refugee Dash. Below are some photos testing the computers the day before and students playing during lunch.

NatalieRefugeeDash    PlayingFreedomDash  PlayingFreedomDash7   PlayingFreedomDash6

The project is described a follows:

2015-2016 Global Studies Service Learning Project: Human Rights and Human Rights Defenders

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world. Indeed, it’s       the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”– Mahatma Gandhi

Essential question: How can I be a Human Rights Defender?
Introduction:  It has become a tradition in the 7th grade to end the year with a service       learning project that allows you to incorporate a DEEPER UNDERSTANDING of                 REGIONS we have studied, to engage in SOCIAL CHANGE, to foster and engender           empathy and COMPASSION, to learn about and hopefully connect with a HUMAN           RIGHTS DEFENDER , and to raise money for CHARITY.  As a class, we will brainstorm     possible regions and topics from which you and your group can choose.  This project       will entail both INDIVIDUAL and GROUP WORK.  It will culminate in a SERVICE                 LEARNING DAY at the end of May where you will be able to showcase you and your         group’s work.

This is one more example of the power of Minecraft as an educational tool. 

Next on the docket- a study of genetics in Minecraft. Stay tuned.


Art Portfolios in Minecraft: a Game Changer with the Power to Affect All of US

Attention teachers, parents, young artists and Minecrafters,

Any avid Minecrafter knows how to put paintings on a wall in game. Imagine if you could choose any piece of artwork you want and with ease, import it into Minecraft; that would be really cool. But even better, imagine if the paintings or artwork were yours, your child’s or your students’. ! That’s a game changer! Literally!

Enter Creatubbles, “a safe social platform for creative kids.” Creatubbles allows kids to share their artwork with other kids around the world in a totally safe, curated environment. Kids “Like” each others’ artwork by adding a bubble on a removable layer of the photo of the piece. Kids aren’t counting likes, they’re counting bubbles! What kid doesn’t like bubbles?! What a wonderful way to foster a love of art in young people. Creatubbles is creating museum goers, maybe even museum creators of the future. And get this, it is absolutely free! Teachers can also create galleries for each one of their classes for students to upload their artwork to.

How does Minecraft come into play? The founder of Creatubbles noticed that kids were uploading screenshots of their Minecraft creations. This got them thinking about streamlining the process so players wouldn’t have to take a screenshot, leave the game, upload to Creatubbles and then go back into the game. They created a mod with a shortcut to allow players to upload their Minecraft screenshots directly to Creatubbles from inside the game. But then, and this is really cool, they created a pipeline going the other direction to allow kids to import photos of their own artwork into the game as “paintings.” One of my students “hung” his artwork above his bed in his house.

Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 11.33.16 AM  Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 11.33.44 AMScreen Shot 2016-01-01 at 11.32.53 AM

Kids now have the power to become museum designers and curators. Imagine kids flying through the game as they create and screencast tours through galleries and museums of their own artwork as a portfolio piece for school describing their growth and thought-process for each piece. This opens up a whole new Minecraft landscape to explore and expand upon. Like Minecraft in its early years, who knows where kids could take this new idea.

To be fair, there are videos describing how to import photographs of anything into Minecraft, but these procedures involve technical rigamarole involving bin files and more that would deter almost anyone. The Creatubbles Minecraft mod is easy to use; once photographs of artwork are uploaded to Creatubbles, the uploading and placing into Minecraft is all done from within the game. No technical rigamarole!

The mod pack is now live and available. Below are three links. The first is to the Creatubbles website where you can create an account for yourself, your daughter or son and for your class if you are a teacher. Creatubbles doesn’t have to be used with Minecraft. Connecting with other young artists all over the world is wonderful enough. The second is a link to the directions on how to install the Minecraft mod and how to use it. The third is a link to a Global Challenge created by a 9 year old boy named Owen.

Whether you are a teacher, a parent, a young artist, or a Minecrafter, I am sure you can see the incredibly, powerful potential of this new tool. Leveraging the super engaging environment of Minecraft, the Creatubbles mod has the power to foster creativity, communication, collaboration, appreciation and empathy for children around the world. In this day, while countries and people seem more polarized than ever in their opinions and viewpoints, through the sharing of art, Creatubbles has the potential to bring young people together by revealing their similarities before their differences divide them.

I would love to know your thoughts. And as always, thank you for reading.


Explore the Depths of a Painting in Minecraft

I am remiss. Presently, interest in Minecraft at my school has waned a bit as of late. This year, my Minecraft Exploratory has been replaced with Messing Around in the Maker Space and the kids are using the 3D printer and making stuff with their hands. Also, my time has been pulled in many other directions and I simply have not had the time to play, explore and design lessons.

This may have all just changed.

Yesterday a friend of mine, extraordinarily interested in art, sent me an article that the more I think about, the more it blows my mind. The Tate Museum has created 3D worlds in Minecraft based on famous pieces in it’s art collection. This is a truly awesome idea in every sense of the word, an absolutely wonderful amalgamation of art, gaming, computer science, and history. I’m going to share this with my students and see them back in time.

Read for yourself.

Tate creates Minecraft worlds based on paintings and sculptures in the collection



Minecraft Student Letter…Chills

Below is an email from an eighth grade student. This is the third year of the Minecraft Exploratory at Brentwood School. Looks like the kids might take this to the next level. Three has always been my favorite number.

Mr. Kahn,                                                                                                                     When you sent me the email about league of legends, I happened to notice you had your blog link in the signature, so I decided to check it out. I am planning to join the [Minecraft] exploratory again this year, and had a few ideas about Eaglecraft.

I have recently been experimenting with a terrain generation program for Minecraft that allows you to customize your world map. I think it would be fun to have a game where we put everyone in a variety of environments with varying difficulty and see how well we can survive as a team. I have also found plugins that can add a harder survival environment, such as adding thirst and seasons, as well as things like heat, increasing the need for fire.

I think it would be fun to have Dylan (See previous post) help run the server as well. I took a java  corse over the summer, and have done some experimenting with plugins for Minecraft, and would like to learn more. It would be great to have someone with experience in plugin development manage the server. I look forward to meeting him, and having a great year in the Minecraft exploratory.

I hope you like my suggestions,

The more I think about this letter, the more moved I become. Being a middle school (within a k-12 school) with only a 7th and an 8th grade, there has sometimes been friction between the two grades. After all, the totem pole only has two levels, the top and the bottom. This year, a considerable effort is being made to stymie this friction and turn the tide. Indeed, the eighth graders this year do not even see a totem pole. The letter above speaks to this point as well as to the power of Minecraft.

Furthermore, this takes me back to a post from March of 2012, the day “Minecraft Ends.” I wrote,  “I am now even more determined to provide a safe place for the “geeky kids,” to be, to play and to explore their interests. And I thought I was just getting into Minecraft.”

Minecraft is not only a wonderful game, but also a conduit for creating incredibly valuable human interactions and friendships, ironically born out of a virtual reality environment.

What if Sander and Dylan strike up a friendship centered around Minecraft that lasts a lifetime? Who knows what, together, they may create.

I have the chills.


Minecraft Exploratory Restart

Last week I received an email from a new Brentwood School 7th grade student:

Hello Mr. Kahn,

When I came to Brentwood School I was very excited when I heard that there was a Minecraft class. I have been playing for quite a while and recently started coding in Eclipse. I was wondering how I would sign up for the class. Hope to see you soon.

Thank you,                                                                                                                            Dylan

This is perfect because each year I hope for a 7th grader to help me run the Eaglecraft server that has been on somewhat of a hiatus as of late. I met with Dylan on Friday and he is rearing to go. He knows about servers, mods and is even using the coding software Eclipse to write code for Minecraft. I have a feeling Eaglecraft may have a long term manager. Stay tuned.


Opportunity Clicks: STEAM Through Minecraft, Teacher Wanted

As a new school year ramps up, I have been preparing for my usual eighth grade physical science course. In addition, I am teaching the first ever robotics elective course at Brentwood School. My plate is full, and that is why I am passing the following email on to the Minecraft community. I believe it is indicative of the present paradigm shift in education away from “stand and deliver” instruction towards more technological and experiential instruction. My question: why not take an environment that kids absolutely love playing in and use it to create learning about the world they are living in? I can’t think of reason. The email: Minecraft teacher wanted “to engage [kids] in topics of geometry, biology, physics, architecture, etc.” Hmm, I think Minecraft would work for that.

MINECRAFT TEACHER WANTED- Ojai/Ventura/Santa Barbara area

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Measuring the Speed of Minecarts in Minecraft

MinecartThe topic for my third meeting with the Sammy Y group was measuring the speed of minecarts. While for the genetics of sheep session I overestimated the knowledge of my audience, this time I underestimated. The night before, I reminded myself how redstone worked and created a couple of starting gates and such. When I asked the kids if they knew how to use redstone, they erupted with knowledge and described some of their builds. In fact, they had already began laying down rail and running a continuous cart around the base of our location beacon. They certainly knew more than I did. A tinge of concern gurgled in my stomach as they took off laying down power rail before I could even pose the question we were to investigate.

Please forgive the digression from Minecraft while I write about teaching in general.  I believe many teachers fail to provide authentic learning to their students because of their belief that they should always know more than the students. Teachers are often fearful of their students knowing more than they do about a topic. Embracing what students know relieves teachers of this pressure and allows teachers to capitalize on a student’s knowledge or expertise in order to take the student’s learning to the next level. Moreover, students love teaching the teacher, and adults for that matter, (see Kids Teaching Adults Minecraft), and ironically, this makes teaching the real students easier. End of digression.

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