(At the recent Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario Technology conference on April 17-18, 2015, members of GamingEdus gave workshops and met some wonderful people with great stories to share. The following post, by a teacher and one of his students, describes the role Minecraft can play in Passion Projects.)

A Teacher Perspective – By Richard Parker (Gr. 3/4 teacher at John William Boich in the Halton District School Board)

Last year was the first year that I introduced 20% projects to my grade 3/4 split class. I use the term 20% Projects because we are a Google School. Since I introduced it as a thing people do at Google, I stuck with that term. Other names for these student led, inquiry based projects are Passion Projects or Genius Hour. I wasn’t sure where it would take my students, but by the end, I was blown away. We used the Q-Chart to formulate our questions, and really focused on the Level 3-4 type inquiries. I encouraged the students to dig deep. I had project proposals ranging from researching a favourite team, and how they started, all the way up to researching the theories of how the world was created. Students were encouraged to find ways to present their research. Many used the GAFE tools (presentations, drawings, Youtube), and others did not. One student, C.D., combined his Minecraft Tablet with Google Presentations to show how a house was built, step-by-step. Since he couldn’t spend hours in front of the class showing how the house was built, what he did instead was interesting. C.D. took screen captures of each step and then shared them into his Google Drive. He then transferred his images to Google Presentation and explained the procedure it takes to build homes. The power of Minecraft in a classroom can be amazing. I have seen grade 3’s recreate rollercoasters when we did our structures unit. Another student created a whole Aboriginal village, longhouses and all. Students have created arrays in math, and grouping. Someone even recreated their Canadian physical region in my grade 4 class. I’m not a crafter; I have rarely played, but that doesn’t matter. Open the doors for students and allow them to do their thing. The outcome can be pretty amazing.

A Student Perspective – By C.D. (Grade 5)

I really like 20% projects because you get to learn about whatever you’d like to share with the class. I chose Minecraft to build a house to show what I learned because Minecraft is a game where you can build anything and it is full of possibilities. I researched how houses are built, and then did it in Minecraft. The things that I love about Minecraft for school is that I can learn by playing at home and then go to school and show what I know by creating in Minecraft Some of the things that I have done for school on Minecraft are building an Egyptian Pyramid with traps, 20% How to Build a House project, arrays for multiplication, and I have created more complicated houses like mansions. I think that teachers should give kids a chance to do what they like in the classroom with Minecraft because it can do wonderful things and inspire kids to do their work.

(GamingEdus would like to thank C.D. & his parents for allowing us to share his video on our website.)