Last Friday I ran six sessions of Minecraft for fifth grade students in language arts. They had been reading a book that referenced several key elements from ancient Egypt. So their teacher decided a short side trip would help them better understand.
In class they studied hieroglyphics and class structure and learned about various Egyptian artifacts. Then to top it all off, they spent two class periods exploring a small village and role playing different aspects of ancient life.
This was the first academic Minecraft experience for these students. Regular gamer types were disappointed that PvP, mining and chat were turned off. But everyone quickly began the task of exploring. I had added Mo's Creatures so the elephants, snakes and crocodiles added plenty of peril. After awhile, some students realized how little food was available in a dessert!
Their teacher circulated the room while I played in game as the Prince of Egypt! I would pass along gifts from Pharaoh and encourage more farming. I also restocked the bakery and notified everyone when a new shipment of supplies arrived at the harbor.
It's exciting to hear the moment students transition from playing a game to interacting with the concept. A few small groups began to organize and divide labor. Some tried to trade their way to survival and others hoped that Pharaoh's blessing would sustain them. I plan to reset the world and save a copy to the MinecraftEdu World Library.
Surprisingly, I really enjoy using Minecraft with language arts. There is something about the way it can bring a narrative to life. Check out my Swiss Family Robinson world.