Minecraft Lesson Idea – Religious and Moral Education

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A Mosque and Grounds

In this lesson idea I explore the basic principles of teaching Religious and Moral Education. Giving children a greater awareness and understanding of a range of religions, religious people and religious beliefs and practices.

While working in education in Scotland, the wider UK and abroad, I have had many discussions with teachers about the difficulties of teaching such a wide and complex subject: In particular, in schools where religious variety is not common. Teaching children the basics of religious awareness, understanding and tolerance can be difficult. Religion has always been a topic of some tension or volatility in our media and perhaps never more so than today. While discussing this with one teacher , he told me he wished there could be more funds allocated to school trips, to show pupils religious buildings and artwork, meet religious people and see different religious practices in action. I myself have friends of the Christian, Muslim and Hare Krishna faiths, and within those they are of differing beliefs and practices. Having returned from a trip to Greece, where Greek Orthodox Christianity is the predominant religion, and witnessed several religious ceremonies (including a wedding) very different to those I have seen before, this got me thinking about how we could facilitate this kind of learning through games, and in particular Minecraft.

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In most traditional, Western school systems, Religious and Moral education (RME) is available to pupils. In Scotland for example, Religious and Moral Education is a compulsory subject and is taught as part of a Curriculum for Excellence. Some of the ‘Experiences and Outcomes’ a child can expect from such an education are:

Learning through religious and moral education enables me to: 

• recognise religion as an important expression of human experience
• learn about and from the beliefs, values, practices and traditions of Christianity and the world religions selected for study, other traditions and viewpoints independent of religious belief

• investigate and understand the responses which religious and non-religious views can offer to questions about the nature and meaning of life
• recognise and understand religious diversity and the importance of religion in society
• develop respect for others and an understanding of beliefs and practices which are different from my own
• explore and establish values such as wisdom, justice, compassion and integrity and engage in the development of and reflection upon my own moral values
• establish a firm foundation for lifelong learning, further learning and adult life. 

The same is true for the English curriculum and some of the learning objectives for pupils studying Religious Education (RE) are:

Describe and make connections between different features of the religions and worldviews they study, discovering more about celebrations, worship, pilgrimages and the rituals which mark important points in life, in order to reflect on their significance.
• Explore and describe a range of beliefs, symbols and actions so that they can understand different ways of life and ways of expressing meaning.
• Understand the challenges of commitment to a community of faith or belief, suggesting why belonging to a community may be valuable, both in the diverse communities being studied and in their own lives.
• Explore and describe a range of beliefs, symbols and actions so that they can understand different ways of life and ways of expressing meaning.

Church Pulpit

So, how do you facilitate discussion, interest, tolerance and respect across such a wide subject. I thought I’d start with a little building project with a class:

Timescales:

2-3 hours (in one go or as part of multiple lessons)

Age Range:

7-14 (I have carried this out successfully within this age range)

Lesson Requirements:

• PC(s) – I recommend one PC per group of four where possible
• Minecraft per group computer
• Projector and Whiteboard (where possible, otherwise just use each PC for showcasing)
• Internet access – For the research element

Lesson Aims (Teachers):

• To encourage thoughtfulness, discussion and debate among learners, about religion and faith.
• To provide a platform for knowledge sharing, peer teaching and understanding about religious people, places and beliefs.

Learning Intentions (Pupils):

• I can identify, describe and recreate places of religious worship.
• I can compare places of worship and practices to others, noting similarities and differences.
• I understand and respect that people have different views on religion and practice this in different ways.

Curriculum Learning:

See your own RME guide ines for specifics

Soft Skills Development:

• Communication – Talking, Listening, Questioning
• Reflection
• Debating
• Negotiation
• Decision Making
• Listening Skills
• Team Work
• Peer Teaching
• Peer Assessment
• Research Skills
• Presentation Skills

How-To:

In this project I split pupils into small groups (four work well). I aim to put pupils into mixed groups where there are at least two different religions in each group. Of course, this is not always possible but works well. In the event this is not possible, the research side of the project and you as the teacher, become the other religions at the discussion and assessment stage.

Step 1 – As half of your groups (pupils) to research one particular religion and it’s places of worship. In this example, I asked pupils to research Christianity.

They used Google and other web resources to explore churches and cathedrals of old and new. They should take notes, save images or draw as part of this process.

Step 2 – Ask the rest of the groups to research another religion and it’s places of worship. In this example I asked pupils to research Islam.

They researched mosques from around the world. Noting the styles, windows, rooftops, interior etc. They should also take notes, save images or draw as part of this.

Note: At this stage, if you have mixed groups with pupils from the religions being studied, you will already hear them start to discuss the structures, decor, interior and most importantly, the purpose and reason for such features. 

By now, independent of my lead, my pupils were discussing holy water, donation boxes, pews, prayer mats, candles, windows, directional prayer and more.

Cemetery

Cemetery

Step 3 – Ask pupils to choose a place of worship related to the religion they have been studying. Ask them to save some images or make a drawing of the building.Encourage pupils to choose a large structure. A small church won’t take most kids too long to build.

Step 4 – Ask pupils to log in to Minecraft, select a new, ‘Flat’ world in ‘Creative Mode’ and begin building their place of worship. Give them around an hour to do this. They will likely need more, but setting an hour will give them a good start. Encourage them to use accurate looking materials and pay attention to the details they researched.

Note: If you are unfamiliar with using Minecraft, please do not hesitate to Contact Me and I will help you.

Step 5 – Note the discussion as building takes place. Facilitate this with questions about their builds.

Step 6 – Give pupils a final deadline to finish their build project before preparing a short presentation on what they built and how it functions as a place of worship. They should be encouraged to consider the rituals, practices and rules or worship when feeding back their build design.

This is where the knowledge and understanding from the work so far can be assessed. Features like holy water, donation boxes, directional prayer, religious symbology, artwork and architecture and even landscaping around the structure should be include with sound justification.

Step 7 – Ask each group to present their build projects. Describing each feature and it’s purpose within the religion.

It is at this stage that pupils begin to self assess. Especially if there are pupils from the religions being shown. In my lesson, my pupils started to raise their hands, debating elements of the build (politely) and asking questions about features or missing features. Here are some of the questions raised by my groups:

‘What is holy water? What is it and why is to at the door?’
• ‘Why do you pray on mats on the floor?’
• ‘Where have you put the separate prayer area for women?’ (that raised a great discussion)
• ‘Why do Christians bury their dead next to where they pray?, we don’t do that.’ (one group had landscaped a cemetery)
• ‘Why do you have to face a certain way to pray?’

Step 8 – Ask pupils to discuss their findings, leading you in to your next lesson/project/unit.

I hope this is something you wish to use and brings you some great results.

Here are some images of the builds my pupils made in our pilot lessons: (click the images for full size)

A Mosque

A Mosque

Cathedral

Cathedral

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Cathedral and Church

A Mosque and Grounds

A Mosque and Grounds

Donations Box

Donations Box

Holy Water

Holy Water

On the Pulpit

On the Pulpit

 

Mosque Windows

Mosque Windows and Prayer Mats

Mosque Door

Mosque Door

Inside the cathedral

Inside the Cathedral

From the Pulpit

From the Pulpit

 

4 Comments

So, what do you think ?

   

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