21ST CENTURY CLASSROOM
Students use Minecraft as a tool to ignite passion for learning
By MITCH CRAIB
Wellness and Stewardship Coordinator
ST. ALBANS — How do you take 7th and 8th grade students and engage them in focused, passionate and respectful learning? Mrs. Cathy Cameron-Muscente, has figured how to do just that by teaching an extremely popular elective Minecraft class three days a week. This course has been so obviously effective that Mrs. Cameron-Muscente will be recognized with an award from Project Ignite for innovative and transformative educators before the end of March 2017.
What exactly is Mrs. Cameron-Muscente doing? She has taken an educational video game (Minecraft), that almost all American children have some exposure to, and used it to channel students’ innate creativity and drive to be a part of a meaningful collective project. More specifically, she has interested the students in working together to build an impressive three dimensional digital model of the extensive St. Albans City School building, and then another realistic digital model of the diverse center-city area around St. Albans Taylor Park. The work the students have done together on these projects is spectacular, and amazingly well scaled.
What are these St. Albans City School students learning in the Minecraft class? They are becoming problem solvers. Students started with a completely blank slate and have had to create the digital tools and building materials for the structures and environments they create. They have had to sharpen their spacial reasoning skills, figuring out just how big or small things are and can be with building measurements, google earth photos and extrapolation calculations. They have had to cooperate with each other. Up to twenty students can work together in this educational Minecraftworldatanypoint in time, unlike the home versions of the learning tool that accommodate a single person at a time. Students have to respectfully negotiate use of materials and have to avoid disturbing other people’s work without consent. Mrs. Cameron-Muscente noted that in the past 12-week session there has been only one minor argument among students. The rest of the time there has been near laser-focused respectful cooperative work across the group. Students have also had to learn to communicate with Mrs. Cameron-Muscente in a quiet and respectful manner, perhaps partially because they cannot make progress without her assistance. She controls the digital content they are eager to use to build their worlds.
After each of the first two completed 12-week sessions, the students are proud of their work. They remain excited to show it off and they are honored by the recognition that Mrs. Cameron-Muscente gives them and by the reactions of fellow students and teachers. The current Minecraft 12-week course is filled to capacity and it looks like next year’s Minecraft classes will be equally full.
Cathy Cameron-Muscente works with a student on Minecraft at St. Albans City School.
Courtesy of Joan Cavallo