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Exploring the Potential for Powerful Real-World Learning with Minecraft

Refugee Crisis Minecraft Lesson - How does this town meet the Sustainable Development Goals?

In November 2018, Immersive Minds partnered with UK Charity Play for Progress to do something pretty special. We prepared and packaged up our Refugee Crisis #MinecraftEdu lessons, and released them as a free resource for educators. By package, what we mean is that it wasn’t just a Minecraft Map, but a OneNote (and PDF) teacher activity guide with Flipgrid and Forms as well as a Formative Assessment Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Framework. We circulated the resource widely on social media and asked educators to consider making a small donation to the charity, Play for Progress, who do vital work with unaccompanied child refugees in the UK. However, now and again educators ask us why they would use these resources, when they don’t seem to fit in to their curriculum. How could these resources be any good, if they were free? We thought it was worth taking some time to explore the incredible opportunities for learning provided by this resource.

Humanities, STEM and SDGs

In its simplest form, this resource ’does what it says on the tin'. It can be used to teach social sciences exploring a range of geographical, economic and political issues relating to place, identity and belonging, as well as the reasons for migration (chosen on forced). However, this resource also links to the Sustainable Development Goals - in particular those relating to Justice, Equality, Poverty, Education - and Climate Change. There is much work to be done considering what the #SDG compliant city 2030 will look like, if we imagine that refugees will be a part of that community, creating scope for STEM learning, with design engineering that accounts for these members of society. This scenario is no work of fiction, since World Bank estimates suggest that climate change could force 140 million people to migrate to other territories by 2050.

The UN Convention on Human Rights and Global Citizenship

The lessons also have links to The UN Convention of Human Rights and The Rights of the Child. If we want our students to become active Global Citizens, it is important for them to know what their rights are, as a member of society. Using the Refugee Crisis as a context for this, young people come to understand that their rights, like all human rights are not determined or diminished by borders. In the resource we explore the idea of ‘safe spaces’ and what students need to make them feel safe. How do these personal notions of safe and secure spaces align with the UN Rights of the Child legislation?

Media and Scientific Literacy

Throughout these lessons there are opportunities to listen to personal, first-hand accounts of children who have had to flee the safety of their own homes, many of whom have lost everything and everyone in the process.

We compare these accounts to the reports in the media and printed press to explore the ways in which these stories are conveyed to the public. This is used as the basis for developing skills in Media Literacy and working on Student Voice. There are opportunities to use work undertaken on examining the way stories are conveyed to the public, to evaluate how scientific issues are presented in the media.

Social and Emotional Learning and Higher Cognition

Finally, the opportunities for skill development are endless. In particular we focus on the development of Social and Emotional Learning skills, but this resource requires students to work together, to explore, discuss, negotiate, debate, reason, justify, persuade, consider perspectives, appreciate diversity, develop respect for self and others, build relationships, identify, analyse and solve problems, and consider the ethical implications of their decisions. Many of these skills are captured within the SEL framework we provide in the resource, but others pertain to the development of Higher Order Cognitive Skills, not least problem solving and creative thinking.

These are just some of the ways that this resource can be used, and there are many other opportunities for learning. Our greatest asset in developing these lessons for teaching complex subject matter, is the creative capacity of Minecraft - providing us a blank canvas upon which we build any learning context we can imagine.

Our series of blogs on this resource, and other pedagogical issues discusses these ideas in greater depth. If you’d like to go deeper with this, you may wish to consider:

  • Our blog providing a step by step breakdown of each lesson in the Refugee Crisis Resource

  • Our blog on Media Literacy

  • Our blog on SDGs and the Convention of Human Rights (coming soon)

  • Our blog on Social and Emotional Learning (coming soon)

  • Our blog on how Place can shape Identity, and help students develop a strong sense of self-respect, roots, and belonging

You can download the Refugee Crisis Resources here, check out our other free teaching resources in our Portfolio, or view our Professional Development Courses on our website

We would like to acknowledge and thank everyone who took part in developing these resources, with special thanks to Emma Naas, Stephane Cloatre, Lanny Watkins and Melissa Wrenchey for trialing these lessons with their students and providing us with helpful feedback for improvements.

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