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


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


Minecraft: Structure or Free Play?

The Pepperdine server has been updated, and one of three teams of students in my Exploratory has completed the Underwater Mine Rescue Challenge thus far. The remaining two teams have had difficulty organizing and completing the challenge.

Watching the kids during today’s Exploratory, I realized that it is a challenge to direct kids in an open sandbox game such as Minecraft without employing a specific mod such as MineraftEdu or being a drill sargent. The latter of which I do not wish to be and would defeat the whole purpose of playing the game in the first place. Continue reading


Oh No! An Update…

Thursday, October 25, Another Minecraft Update.                                                       7:45 a.m. Email to school tech: Just confirming that kids can’t update the computers.      

10:12 a.m. Tech email response: Kids cannot update the computers in the computer lab. I breathe a sigh of relief.

12:05 p.m. I amble into the computer lab. Kids are already playing Minecraft.

Kids in lab: Mr. Kahn, the server doesn’t work with the new update.                                 Mr. Kahn: Ugh! Why?! Why?! Why?! Continue reading


Minecraft League: The 1st Challenge

Underwater Mine Rescue

Greedy miners were working an underwater mine when the inevitable happened. Reaching for that elusive block of ore, they punched a hole in the roof of a shaft on the top level of the mine and flooded the area. Forced to flee quickly, leaving a lot of their best tools behind, they quickly retreated to a shelter below as water poured in around the mine. They did not make it out. But their situation remains a favorite puzzle past time of skilled miners who believe, if they had been there, they could have made it out alive.

The Challenge

Use the designated Commons teleport to jump with your team to a location somewhere in the abandoned mine, which is now partially flooded with water from above and around it. Salvage what you can from the abandoned mine operation to create a rail-based escape route that can carry a disaster survivor to safety. Continue reading


Kids Teaching Adults Minecraft

Another reason why I love Minecraft.

Today my students became teachers and met their students in person. Seventeen adult graduate students from Pepperdine University visited my Minecraft Exploratory. I was excited for their visit, but the results were beyond my expectations. Lindax delivered the first challenge for our league: Underwater Mine Rescue (to be described in a future post). The level of engagement of the kids and the adults is obvious from the pictures and videos below. One graduate student expressed her doubts about Minecraft, but since meeting the kids had a complete turnaround. Person to person interaction is still important.

The world may be flat, but it’s also upside down.  Below, kids teaching adults.
Teachers would be better teachers if they let the students be the teachers.

 Minecraft brings kids and adults together in a collaborative learning space.

There are three schools in the Minecraft League. Several of the graduate students above have been assigned to each school to learn from the kids and observe how the game works. I suppose they will do some writing about their observations. The first challenge will begin in a couple of weeks. The name: Underwater Mine Rescue. Check back here to learn more about the challenge and the kids progress.


1 Reason Why I Love Minecraft

“We have to be responsible for what we do.” This was written by a student in response to some griefing going on in our world of the Pepperdine server.

Another student: “I Think that Respect is the most important core value for Minecraft. I think Minecraft is a way to show your feelings and talent. It is a lot like an art show. Some people like some designs or types of creations, others may not. If everybody just respects and accepts the buildings made by each other, we can have fun and be a caring community on Minecraft.” Continue reading


Minecraft Challenge League Welcome Letter

Welcome to Minecraft Challenge League (MCL)

Lindax, League Commissioner
doc. ver. 0.9

This living document contains some useful information about how the server has been set up and what’s available to you. It will change as needed. If you are a student with questions or comments, please take them to your teacher first, unless you’re stuck or need help badly while you’re in the game. If we’re online we’re happy to help. Your Pepperdine University team includes:
Linda Polin → Lindax
James Rhoads → jbrhoads
Andrea Shea → Andreashea

Plain Vanilla
This server is set up as a mostly plain vanilla server. Yes, we have a few mods installed, but those are for administrative routines, like creating groups and protecting regions. We think it’s great to mine AND craft, not just get everything you need without even having to find and construct it. After all, it’s not called Craft. It’s called Minecraft. Continue reading


One Year Wiser…

…but not wise enough.

The school year is under way and we had our Exploratory faire a week and half ago. Eighteen students signed up for Minecraft, including 2 eighth grade boys, 14 seventh grade boys and 2 seventh grade girls. That’s 2 more girls than last year!

All the computers were updated with the newest version and we were ready to go for our first Exploratory which was last week. I made the unfortunate mistake of thinking that I would hear about the computers not working if there were problems.

I arrived 10 minutes early and students were already there. I was hit with the bad news: “Bad video card drivers.” I called the tech department but they could not fix it in time to salvage our first meeting. With 18 kids in a computer lab, I had to think fast before things deteriorated into chaos.

“OK everyone, pair up (I love having even numbers of students) and play the game, Fire Boy and Water Girl.” This is a great game because kids solve problems together.
The video cards have since been updated and the computers have been checked. All set for this Thursday.


The video cards have since been updated and the computers have been checked. All set for this Thursday.