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.

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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.

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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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Genetics in Minecraft: Wool, Mendel and Brownies

Last week, I met with Sammy Y and the guinea pigs again for another session of Science Through Minecraft. Being our second time together, we were all a little less guinea piggy. We thus moved on to sheep genetics. The night before, I prepared a Google Doc with some concepts, terms, video links, all related to simple Mendelian Genetics: inheritance, DNA, chromosomes, genes, alleles, dominance, recessive, blended inheritance, Punnett squares, probabilities, P-generation, F1, F2, test crosses, Mendel, pea plants, etc. I had forgotten that this was a non traditional lesson so to speak and I had forgotten my audience. Better to be over prepared.

I arrived on time at 11:30 and found the four kids climbing the walls of the living. Sammy Y told them that they could not go on Minecraft until I arrived. As I opened the screen door  the kids bolted to the table and booted up their laptops. I guess they enjoyed our first meeting using feathers to investigate whether or not air exists air in Minecraft.

I began the session by asking the three third graders and one fifth grader what they knew about genetics. I quickly realized four clean slates eagerly sat before me. My preparation the night before was overkill and more appropriate for middle school students, but I was totally fine with that. In fact, I found this to be more exciting. Continue reading

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Science, Minecraft, Feathers and Guinea Pigs

“Science through Minecraft.”  It was Sammi Y’s idea.

Hi Mr. Kahn,                                                                                                                              I am a parent of an avid 9 year old Minecraft fan in Los Angeles.  I have been reading your blog about your middle school students with great interest….Since my son has become a MC fan (and has pulled his friends into it as well), I have gradually become a fan, too. I even some how managed with my son to set up a multiplayer server via Hamachi by viewing youtube videos….Anyway, my son and his friends are quite proficient in all things MC.  I am very pleased with all the creativity, math, engineering, computer skills (typing, commands, understanding of internet/servers), designing, architecture, and surprisingly, social skills and friend-building that MC has to offer…The reason why I’m emailing you today is because I have been looking for someone who could teach my son more about MC from an educational point of view…. [maybe] a class called “Science through Minecraft”–like that cool way in which the kids on your blog used MC to design their interpretations of a cell.  If you could create a simple lesson about a topic in science and then let the kids do something with that theme in MC, that would be a show-stopper.  We are willing to be guinea pigs! BTY- MC user names have been modified.

The guinea pigs, myself included.

The guinea pigs, myself included.

Today was our first meeting of “Science through Minecraft.”  I spent some time thinking about a good topic to start with. I came up with a question that I actually did not really know the answer to. I think Papert would approve of this as authentic learning. I drew inspiration for my question from a video called Gravity Lab produced by MinecraftEduElfie. My goal however was not for the kids to investigate gravity, but to investigate if a feather falls faster than sand or gravel. My intention was for the kids to find out whether or not there is an atmosphere in Minecraft. Continue reading

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