It might seem like the entire point of enrolling a student in an after-school learning center would be to keep them away from video games and television. Zaniac, a Park City, Utah-based chain of after-school learning centers, doesn't quite see it that way. One of a growing number of educators and schools utilizing Minecraft as a tool for engagement and student exploration, in this case, to teach architecture and urban planning, the company believes it's a valuable way to teach STEM skills. According to Sidharth Oberoi, President of Zaniac, it's not a difficult sell.
"Our students love to build, it's something they were naturally doing in the game," says Oberoi. "We teach them scientific concepts about natural resources and planning. We're teaching them concepts without them realizing it."
Game-Based Learning: Architectural Design, a weekly 90 minute course Zaniac just started a few weeks ago, focuses on building, design, planning and even zoning. Students look at existing cities via Google Street View and discuss how certain landmarks and buildings are arranged. They then create 3-D models of building and import them into the game utilizing a program called MCEdit; so far, students have replicated the Taj Mahal, Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building and a Star Wars battleship. The final project asks students to work together and build a city, splitting different aspects of construction and focusing on collaboration and teamwork. Zaniac will also offer the course as a summer camp, which condenses the six-week course into a single week.
The game's popularity is no secret, especially to any parent whose child is obsessed: purchased by Microsoft last fall for $2.5 billion, the world-building game with charmingly lo-fi graphics has sold more than 20 million copies. Zaniac, which has seven locations and serves roughly 500 students, is one of numerous schools using the game and MinecraftEdu, an officially licensed version built to be an educational tool. For years, schools and organizations from the Chicago Architecture Foundation to secondary school in Northern Ireland and Sweden, have promoted the game as an important resource, one that helps teach collaboration, creativity and spatial skills (
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