Using Minecraft in Your Art Curriculum

The following is a guest post written by Bo Gorcesky, a Middle school Media Arts teacher passionate about sharing educational technology findings. Once an independent filmmaker, Bo now touches lives with technology.

Minecraft is a $7 app that I use with a class set of iPads during my media arts class. (There is also a free version, but you can’t save on it.) If you don’t have access to iPads, Minecraft Edu is another option. When I first started using Minecraft, I had no idea what this game was all about or why it was so addicting to my students. What I did know was that I had to capitalize on my kids’ interests while also creating the perfect opportunity for me to do a Flipped Class Project.

 Getting Started:

Since I was new to Minecraft, I asked a few students to lead class demonstrations. We started the project by just letting the students play in the “creative mode.” In “creative mode” the player has unlimited resources to build any three-dimensional form.

Minecraft Project #1: Convert a drawing to a Minecraft

I started off the project with my students creating a grid drawing on Drawcast. They would then re-create that drawing out of Minecraft blocks in the form of a dilation. The students got to experience the world of Minecraft with no worries of losing or messing up – it was all about stretching the limits of their creativity.

Minecraft project #2: Connect architecture with other subject areas

After about three to four days I felt the majority of the students had a firm grasp on the Minecraft material – I was ready to move onto the next part of the project. Inspired by some resources at Minecraft in Education, I connected careers in architecture with other curricular areas.

My 7th graders were studying medieval castles in their social studies class, so I thought it would be an awesome way to collaborate with an interdisciplinary plan. To help my students get started I used a great web site that showcased blue prints of castles. Then, I gave my students five days to build their castle in the Minecraft environment. Other grade levels made architecture connections with colonial homes (8th grade) and Pyramids integrating the study of Ancient Egypt (6th grade).

Minecraft project #3: Play together using virtual structures built by students

In a Flipped tradition, one of my students suggested that we capitalize on the use of the Minecraft server (which allows up to five players to play on the same world at the same time) and do a mock version of the Crusades where we have to invade each other’s home. Everyone loved the idea, including myself – so a tournament started up. Server set-up tips here.

I didn’t want the students to just go crazy playing Minecraft every day; instead I wanted them to reflect upon what they were learning and share their findings within the small group function on Edmodo.

Want to try Minecraft in your art curriculum? Here are a few tips and observations:

I was AMAZED to see the collaboration between students as they started to build their structures. One person would be the main builder, while the others would gather resources. However along with some great teamwork, I also ran into some difficult management issues. In one situation there was a student who just liked to cause trouble in the game by killing their own teammates. In another situation a student would just go off and fight Zombies and Creepers (not to mention other enemies that attack you during Survival Mode of the game).

Did I forget to mention “survival mode”? Unlike “creative mode” mentioned earlier, “survival mode” gives you a health bar and you have to actually mine for resources. For example, If you want to build tools, you need a crafting table – if you want a crafting table, you need wood. You also want to get to a shelter by night time or monsters come out to get you. If you die, you lose all of your resources. After the five days were up, the students would then go into “attack mode”. Basically, the King/Pharaoh/Plantation Owner would host the Minecraft server, and four people from another team would invade and attack. My point system was pretty messed up, as some times they could find each other and fight, some times the King would just hide and others – the monsters or the team mates would kill each other.

When I do this project again, I will make CLEARER guidelines and expectations. Surely there is the chance that somebody could accidentally “hit” their teammate, but I was getting into issues where students were just wasting time. I would encourage teachers to be constantly roaming around and talk to the students. If somebody complains that a partner is killing them, I would send them out for a time out. ANY time that a student is taken away from Minecraft seems to be one of the harshest punishments. When a student is sent out, it hurts the team but I think it shows them that they must all work together at all times in order to succeed.

Overall this was a GREAT project. Students that never played this game soon found out how addicting it was. I had students come into my room to record a tutorial for future players and others that were eager to share their findings with the program. We still have “Make Up / Free Time Thursdays” where the students still like to battle and brag to see who is the best crafter around.

Ultimately, by introducing the Minecraft project into my art curriculum students learned:

  • basic programing skills, tools and principles for creating interactive digital art in an engaging environment.
  • how to work in a creative collaboration and the consequences when collaboration fails.
  • how to take two-dimensional drawings and turn them into three-dimensional digital forms.

Watch additional video footage from this Minecraft project on this YouTube playlist.

5 Comments

  • November 29, 2012

    Peggy

    This post is awesome – my students are teaching me how to play this year. I especially like the connections to architecture. What program did you or your student use to create the YouTube video?

  • December 8, 2012

    Suzzane @ Vedic Mathematics

    Kids really enjoy minecraft. There will be more games for children which helps them to grow their little mind.

    Thanks
    Suzzane

  • December 11, 2012

    Kai

    Hello;
    I am homeschooled and i have minecraft on my ipad and computer. For social study’s we read books and while my mom is reading we make whatever we are learning about on minecraft. For example when we were learning about vikings I made a viking ship!

  • February 25, 2013

    Jared

    I think Minecraft is a great way to teach kids creativity and life responsibilities!

  • March 24, 2013

    Colleen Rose

    I’m so excited to see such unique and creative ways to explore the use of Minecraft in the art room. My students have been experimenting with a variety of ways to use Minecraft to demonstrate their understanding in a variety of contexts.

    The most recent project that I’m proud to share is a blog post from one of my grade 10 students, who worked with a partner to create a Gothic cathedral to help him show his knowledge of late medieval architecture. Please feel free to look here: http://www.adamsartprojects.blogspot.ca/2013/03/minecraft-gothic-cathedral.html

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge about Minecraft in this article. I agree that the program is a wonderful way to allow students to explore, experiment and create.

    ~ Colleen Rose
    http://www.mrsroseart.blogspot.ca
    http://www.northernartteacher.wordpress.com
    @ColleenKR

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