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Geographical Literacy through Building: A Minecraft Project

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Keywords: colalboration, geography, communities, housing, Minecraft
Subject(s): English/Language Arts, Math, History, Geography, Social Studies
Grades 6 through 8
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
View Full Text of Standards
School: Benton Co School of the Arts, Rogers, AR
Planned By: Alexandra Vasile
Original Author: Alexandra Vasile, Rogers
Note: This plan covers multiple days
WST.1.7.2. Construct geographic representations for the purpose of asking and answering specific geographic questions
WST. 1.7.3. Explain relationships between places and regions using geographic representations
WST 2.7.1 Construct visual and written explanations of the spatial organization and spatial patterns of people, places, and environments
WST 2.7.2 Compare spatial connections among people, places, and their environments over time

Learning Goals:
Essential Questions: How has geography influenced the way people live on different continents? What are the similarities and differences between settlement patterns on different continents? How do different cultures develop perspectives on aspects such as housing and growing crops?

Key Vocabulary: social group, political group, absolute location, relative location, temperate zone, tropics, vertical climate, life expectancy, push and pull factors, acculturation

Materials: Minecraft software, mice, microphone, webcam, Social Studies journal

Introduction: Students will start discussing what types of geographical and climate areas they know (tropical, tundra, temperate, etc) and compare them in terms of weather, landforms and natural resources.
The teacher then will ask the following questions: how do you think these differences influence the way people live in different continents? How do you think geographical location and climate can affect access to resources and the types of structures that people build?

Students will work in groups to discuss possible answers to the introductory questions. Then, they will share their thoughts and conclusions with the class. Finally, they will write a reflection in their Social Studies journal in which they provide their own answer to the two questions.
Next, students will research different types of housing and living structures used in various geographical locations. They will sketch these in their Social Studies journals, together with short reflections on why they believe specific populations chose certain types of housing versus others.
Using the information they collected, students will choose a specific geographical area to focus on (temperate, tropical, tundra, etc) and use Minecraft for education to build replicas of these structures, alongside natural barriers, important geographical features and resources found in that specific area.
The culmination of the project will be a series of Skype meetings with three classrooms from Africa, Europe and Asia where students will discuss differences in geography and how climate and resources have affected their countries’ type of housing.

Wrap-up: Students will share their Minecraft community with the class. They will use this opportunity to reflect on the connection between geographical space and human settlement patterns and types of housing in different climate areas.

Evaluation: Students will be evaluated on the thoroughness and accuracy of their initial research. They will also be evaluated on the creation of their Minecraft community (completeness, accuracy, inclusion of important geographical boundaries, landforms and correct housing structures).

Extend learning: Students who wish to extend their learning may build an additional Minecraft community with housing structures of the ancient world. Using their knowledge of ancient history and environment, they will compare the current housing and settlement patterns with ancient ones for the same geographical area.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
Students can use their Minecraft community in mathematics to calculate surface area and volume of different types of structures. In Language Arts, students can write a journal entry from the point of view of an individual who lives in the chosen geographical area and how their daily life is affected by the resources and landforms that are nearby.
The project can extended further by collaborating with the Skype partners to build various Minecraft communities together.
Materials: Cause and Effect, Mice, Microphones
Other Items: 1 Webcam, $30.99 each, total of $30.99
22 Computer Mice, $9.99 each, total of $219.78
1 Microphone, $55 each, total of $55.00
60 Minecraft user license, $5 each, total of $300.00