I’m very excited to finally be able post about this. Back in January, there was a grant opportunity in West Virginia called the Governor’s STEM Mini-Grant. Applicants could ask for up to $2,500 for a project that fit into the STEM umbrella. Projects would need to be completed by September of this year. It was first brought to my attention by an administrator, who was mislead as to the purpose of the grant. Once that was corrected, the administrator stated that she hoped to get some staff to apply for the grant because it would benefit the students.
I agreed, and thought nothing more about it. I hadn’t planned on applying for it. This was right before the notice that I was being transferred and my TIS position was being cut. For whatever reason, the idea popped into my head to use Minecraft for the grant. Minecraft is making big strides in education, and had so many ways to be used that I thought I could surely come up with something in the STEM umbrella.
So I researched and looked into a variety of ideas. Ultimately I decided to focus on architecture and design within Minecraft, as that was something I was working on myself. The grant required a very specific project plan and a timeline of activities in addition to the required objectives and project information. I came up with my basic objectives and then from there developed the activities and final project, adding in more objectives on each activity. I tweaked and retweaked my project timeline activities, trying to provide enough detail so that those reviewing my grant application would understand what I was trying to achieve. I even had a colleague look over my application to make sure it made sense. I had never worked so hard on a grant before, but I was very passionate about what I wanted to do.
Thus Minecraft Makershop was concocted: Minecraft Makershop is a 5 day workshop for students attending CBMS in the 6th-8th grades. The workshop will begin the first full week after school ends for the summer. Students will attend from 9 AM to 1 PM daily during this time. This project will create a space for students to focus on engineering, architecture, and circuitry. Students will use MinecraftEDU to design and create their own buildings, as well as collaborate to plan and build a village or city as a final project.
Resources for this project include MinecraftEDU (yes it will still work even though Microsoft acquired it recently), their cloud hosting service, a few books, and some PDF files on building that I have gathered for my own use. I know there are many Minecrafters out there that do not like the book method, but I have always found it inspirational and a good way to learn simple new tricks. Students attending the workshop will also be free to use the Internet to locate any other resources they so desire for their work.
Here is Project Timeline of Activities for Minecraft Makershop:
Activity 1: Building Basics – Students will be introduced to Minecraft and the different
blocks available. Students will discuss textures and different block combinations. Students will then be asked to build a house given the guidelines that it must have a roof, walls on all sides, a door, and at least one window. The rest is up to them. Every student will be assigned a space in which to
build, and will label their area with a sign so that others can tour their build.
Activity 2: Building Analysis – Students will log in and tour every other student’s build.
Teacher will have students provide constructive criticism about the builds- what they enjoy, what they think could be improved upon, and how that might be accomplished.
Activity 3: Building Basics 2 – Teacher will have sent students a Minecraft Building Theory
PDF via school email. Students will be asked to look at this file and the suggestions it has to improve upon basic builds. Students will then apply the concepts that they have read about to their build. If necessary, they may rebuild it from scratch. Upon completion of the new build, students should be able to compare and contrast the different changes they have made to their build, and how this affects the appearance.
Activity 4: Introduction to Redstone Circuitry – Teacher will introduce students to the
basics of redstone, which is similar to electricity in the real world. Students will learn how to create basic circuits to power items in the game, such as a lever to open a door or operate a piston. Students will then return to their current build, and find at least one way to add redstone to their designs.
Activity 5: Building Culmination – Based on all prior activities up until this point, students will use all obtained knowledge and any resources they may find to create any type of build of their own design. Their build must include at least two elements of basic redstone circuitry.
Activity 6: Final Project – Students will get together in groups of up to 4. Students will collaborate and plan a simple village or city. They will be given a list of resources to help them determine
what buildings they will need. Students will need to incorporate at least six of these buildings. This can include one type of house. Their build must have some kind of road system to connect locations in the village or city, and must incorporate redstone circuitry throughout. Students will be given the option to plan their builds or layouts on paper first. After all builds are completed, students will tour builds and give feedback to the creators, including ways that they might expand or improve upon their designs.
I have already begun stirring up excitement for this workshop at school. I’ve put posters up in the hallways to advertise to students, and I’ve also spoken to groups of students that I know would be interested. I can only take 24 students for the workshop due to space allotment, but I’m hoping to get a lot of interest from both boys and girls. In fact, when it comes to accepting applications, I would love to accept 12 and 12. I even told a few girls that I was looking for that, so if more boys than girls applied, the girls would definitely be accepted. I’m looking for any reason to get girls into the STEM umbrella, and this is one way to do that.
Hopefully I can post updates as I develop my materials and in depth plans for this workshop. If it goes as well as I hope, I plan to apply for grants for something similar wherever I work next year if I can. I would love to do this sort of thing year round!