This is my son's fourth grade California mission project (Mission Santa Cruz), built not with sugar cubes or fondant or foam core but with Minecraft blocks (built from scratch, not from a MOD).
It's the mission project of the very near future. Brace yourselves, teachers: Last year, a class probably had one Minecraft mission submitted; this year, two or three; and in years to come, maybe half of the class will build missions in Minecraft.
A year ago, my boys stumbled across a few You Tube videos of California missions, all created in Minecraft by fourth graders. We saw blocky cows and blocky church pews and my boys each excitedly exclaimed, "I can do that! I'm going to start making a mission in Minecraft tomorrow!"
"Wait!" I shouted, "You're only in third grade. You don't even know what a mission is!"
Savvy kids like mine know to play the education card when appealing for Minecraft time.
I have a love/hate with Minecraft, probably because I often see my boys looting each other's chests rather than, say, using the game's built-in AI to make, say, a working scientific calculator! As a mother, I worry about the ill effects of too much screen time, and yet, I guess I'm hopeful my kids will spin all those Minecraft hours into a career in tech.
For now, all it's meant is that my boys have become adept at keyboarding. One is ranked as a top typist in his class, a kind of dubious distinction, meaning he honed his typing skills while playing a video game.
Beyond their excellent typing skills, they've also learned how to install mods and how to create a server.
It took my son between 25-30 hours to craft Mission Santa Cruz in Minecraft. For 25-30 hours, he was immersed in his mission, its culture and its history.
Contrast this with the hour or two my other son (they are twins) spent putting together a simple photo essay of his mission (his teacher has her students collaborate on building a mission in class). He slapped down a few digital photos and that was that. I don't think he learned as much about missions from the process of doing a photobook but he was proud nonetheless.
The biggest benefit about the Minecraft mission? My fourth grader built and narrated his mission project himself. Not knowing anythng about Minecraft, I couldn't have helped him if I tried. (Many California schools have done away with traditional mission models because parents were going overboard in helping.) My son was invested and engaged in this project, mostly because he got to build it in Minecraft, a game he enjoys. Mention his mission project in front of him and he will beam with pride.
Half the battle in education is in engaging children. While I'm not an educational expert and I know Minecraft is not a good fit for all kids, it seems time to ponder how Minecraft can best be used in the classroom.
Click the link to watch A Rainy Day Mission Santa Cruz in Minecraft.
This is an original post to Chalk and Cheese Chronicles.