Minecraft: Open World Gaming in the Classroom


Saying “Minecraft” in any class from kindergarten through eighth grade will generally result in a bit of a frenzy. During a recent classroom visit, I noticed a group of students sitting in a small circle intensely discussing the task at hand. It was apparent that due to their fierce engagement, I had gone completely unnoticed. As I moved closer, the mooing and clucking of cows and chickens were clearly audible.

I asked, “is that Minecraft?” At that moment, the intensity broke as they all turned. It was as if  just saying Minecraft broke the spell and opened the floodgates. They eagerly explained the basics of the game and why it remains at the top of their gaming list. From creativity to survival, their reasoning clearly reinforced Minecraft as an engaging learning tool.

Many teachers have asked me what is Minecraft? Simply put,  Minecraft is an open world type game where players can travel through a virtual environment. Also referred to as a sandbox game, Minecraft is void of any artificial barriers and allows players to create and manipulate their world. Using an inventive 3d platform, players can build structures out of textured cubes, forage for resources, craft, and combat.

Can a game with no apparent goals be an effective learning tool? A small group of educators and programmers from the United States and Finland say yes by creating MinecraftEDU. If you are considering deploying Minecraft at your school, MinecraftEDU is the ideal launching point, providing tutorials and lesson plans that can be adapted to  your existing curriculum.

Minecraft’s curriculum connections:

  • Survival- One of two principle modes, survival mode requires players to maintain their health and consider the resources and skills required to survive and develop their world.
  • Geology- Mining is a key element of Minecraft.  Students can identify the physical properties and uses of minerals along with building and studying biomes.
  • Science-  From melons to squash, students can study plants and seeds, along with the essentials to make them grow. Discuss natural habitats as students explore deciduous forests,  deserts, jungles, and tundras.
  • Engineering- Complex structures can be built using Minecraft including replicas of historic landmarks.
  • Math- The Minecraft crafting system can develop reasoning and problem solving skills.

There are two versions of Minecraft available:

Minecraft Pocket Edition- Available for ios and Android.

MinecraftEDU–  Designed for classroom use and available for Mac, Windows, and Linux

As the Minecraft craze continues to spread worldwide, educators are creating engaging learning experiences by making solid curriculum connections to open world gaming.

Real world uses of Minecraft in the classroom:

Wonders of Minecraft– Chronicles the introduction of Minecraft into the middle school curriculum.

Digging For Truth-Minecraft Blog–  Jeremy Briddle writes about creating a curriculum unit that connects Minecraft to the study of early human civilizations.

Minecraft, with all its pixels, is making quite an impact on children. Innovative educators are taking advantage of student’s natural excitement and are achieving effective teaching via gaming.

Is there a place for Minecraft in your classroom?

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