Designing Animal and Plant Cells in Minecraft Edu

I had a chance to work with Mrs. Scott’s 5th Graders are Fort Lewis last week as they worked to design plant and animal cells in Minecraft Edu. I love this activity for so many reasons, but most importantly, the conversations that ensued as students worked in small groups to design and build their cells.  If you stood in the middle of the room and just listened, you could hear so many things going on that we strive for in classrooms:

  • Meaningful discussion of a topic using vocabulary as they discussed which materials to use for their cell parts and why.
  • Embedded use of the writing process as students worked to label and describe cell parts. It mattered to them that their spelling and grammar was correct.
  • Collaboration and communication skills being used as students worked to explain their ideas and build their model together. Students who were more versed in Minecraft helped those who weren’t, and there was great discussion and compromise as they decided exactly how to build their project.

I wish I could capture all these things to show other teachers, but I haven’t found the best way to do that yet.  There’s nothing like standing in the middle of it.  So this post is my attempt to show what I can.

To begin, we discussed the design challenge and the expectations of students when they worked in groups in Minecraft. We talked about the different types of players in Minecraft projects.  (The chart below was helpful later in class for students who began wandering off to do their own thing or destroying others work.  Group members were able to quickly name behavior and redirect their errant group member.)

minecraft directions

Then, students had 10 minutes to talk about what they were going to build and make decisions such as who would host the world, what jobs each group member would complete, and basically how they would accomplish the task.  It was tempting to skip this part and just jump right in, but I think the upfront discussion lead to better group work once students were in the game.

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Each group picked a person to host the world, and all the other players in the group joined that world. They sat at tables together so they could easily talk in real life while working together virtually.  I have found this setup works really well for small groups.

Finally, at the very end of the time, students recorded a tour of their world using Flipgrid. I know that the tours would turn out better with screencasting software, but we didn’t have that option this time so I just grabbed iPads and had them record on one computer.

You can check out their tours here:

https://flipgrid.com/9d49110d 

I love how all the groups approached this challenge differently.

If you want to try out this design challenge in your own classroom, here is the design brief: Plant and Animal Cell Design Brief

We just used the Blocks of Grass world in creative mode.

A huge “thank you” to Mrs. Scott for always being willing to collaborate and integrate technology.

*This lesson originally came from Joshua Thom and a lesson he posted in the Microsoft Community.  You can view the original lesson here: 8Bit Cell Tour I adapted it a bit to align with the Children’s Engineering Design Model.

**Cross-posted on The Learning Collaboratory here: Designing Plant and Animal Cells in Minecraft Edu

Water Conservation Projects with Adobe Spark

After their experience with their Level Up Village Global Scientists projects, students in Mrs. Meredith’s class wanted to create a media message to encourage people to save water.  They had learned that, in their community, water waste was one of the biggest issues. Check out some of their water conservation projects using Adobe Spark.

Morning Group

Afternoon Group

These students are helping make our world a better place! This project addressed Sustainable Development Goal 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation.  Learn more about the SDGS here – http://www.teachsdgs.org/

This project was also posted here: Fort Lewis Digital Archive.

Small Group Center Ideas

Our division has really been talking hard about small groups.  Our literacy plan requires small groups in Language Arts, but teachers are also asked to come up with ideas for Math, Science and Social Studies — even cross-circular activities.  Here are some ideas for using Technology in small groups.

 Minecraft Edu (Use Prompts to match your content – area, perimeter, models of science or social studies concepts, novel settings, etc.)  — All Roanoke County teachers and students have accounts.

Breakout Edu (Digital Breakouts)https://platform.breakoutedu.com/ ; Create a free teacher account to find the free games; Example: Finding Frosty – https://platform.breakoutedu.com/game/FINDING-FROSTY

Formative (Game Based) Assessment Websites

 Reflection

Coding

 Organizing

 Creating

Are there any other ideas or resources that you use in your classroom?

Jamestown Hybrid/Digital Breakout Edu

At the VSTE conference this year, I attended a session where the presenter, Kristine Vester (@kavester) shared her ideas for Hybrid Breakouts.  Basically, Hybrid Breakouts were a mix of digital and hands-on Breakout Edu games.  Students solved all the clues online, and then once they knew the lock combinations, they used those combinations on a physical box with actual locks.  It was appealing to me because it meant you could use less boxes (between groups you could re-lock the box), it allowed for more participation for individual players, and the set-up was a lot easier on me!  I still LOVE hands-on Breakout Edu games and will continue to use them, but this idea provided an alternative, especially when there was limited time to make physical game pieces.

I tried it out with two fourth grade Virginia Studies classes.  I built a Jamestown Digital Breakout using Breakout Edu’s new platform.  There were enough locks in the Digital version that every student on a team would be able to “drive” the computer for a lock.

At the end of the game, the reveal was the lock combinations for the physical box.  There were enough locks on this one too that everyone in a group could open at least one lock.

After playing it a few times, I’ve adjusted the clues a bit.  I think it’s perfect for students in Grades 4 and 5, which was just what I needed for our Virginia SOLS.  All teams were able to Breakout in under 45 minutes, and they had a blast playing!

So, just in case someone else would like to use it, included a link below. For the Hybrid version, you will also need a Breakout Box with a 4 digit lock, 3 digit lock, word lock, direction lock, and key lock (combinations are shown at the end of the game).

Jamestown Breakout Edu – Hybrid (Play Code: 6XW-P1I-WEU)

I went ahead and created a completely digital version of the game too, just in case someone without access to a box would like to play.

Jamestown Breakout Edu-All Digital (Play Code: 8HY-TK7-IUY)

I don’t want to post answers online, but if you need help figuring it out, feel free to contact me.

Minecraft Edu

Did you know Roanoke Country provides Minecraft Edu to students and teachers?  Here are some resources you might find helpful as you explore the ways you can incorporate this engaging game into your classroom.

Support Links:

Lessons, Worlds, and Educational Community

A huge thanks to JT Thompson from Microsoft for many of the above resources.

Here’s one more great resource:

Ben Kelley’s Minecraft Resources