HANNAH WEST | Experience Creator at Phygital Labs

This past fall, Phygital Labs hosted a two-day Minecraft Maker Camp—a day camp for kids that leverages the power of Minecraft to teach 21st Century skills in a fun, engaging way—for students at the Jewish Day School in Bellevue, Washington.

At camp, students ranging from 2nd through 5th grade were immersed in learning around two concepts designed to grow 21st Century skills. On the first day, students were introduced to the concept of sustainable city components in the City of the Future curriculum. On the second day, students were introduced to the concept of making work easier through the design and implementation of machines in the Innovative Machines curriculum. Led by experienced local educator Anne Carnell, students saw examples, sketched ideas, brainstormed in groups, tested iterations, and designed machines and cities in Minecraft. At the end of camp, students presented their work to the group.

Developed for all students regardless of age or Minecraft experience
The Minecraft Maker Camp curriculum was designed to ensure a positive experience for students of all age, skill, and ability levels. Within each module of the curriculum, students were given examples to demonstrate the concepts, and from there, they were able to decide which components they wanted to include in their cities or machines. Students with more advanced skill sets were drawn to more complex work, while students with less experience were drawn to more straight-forward concepts and build ideas. In this open-ended model, all students were challenged within their individual ability and skill levels while still developing an understanding of the overarching concepts.

Minecraft city explored by campers in the City of the Future curriculum.

“Minecraft Maker Camp is a great opportunity for students of all ages and ability levels to experience learning that meets them where they are,” Carnell said. “No matter their skill or experience, this unique curriculum allows for rich learning experiences that are truly learner driven.”

For example, we had one student arrive on the first day of camp who had never played Minecraft. Over the two days, Carnell supported her in practicing progressive skills in modified builds, stretching and growing her skills while ensuring her experience was relevant, fun, and engaging. By the end of the second day of camp, this student was excited to showcase what she had built with other students.

We also had several students arrive with extensive Minecraft experience. After seeing the examples provided, these students were driven to learn the new skills needed for the more complex builds. One of these students chose to spend a portion of his storyboard time watching tutorials on the mechanics required to propel a Minecart forward at varying rates of speed, while another student researched the automatic crop harvester to determine how he could integrate it into his build.

Learning through the physical and digital worlds
At Phygital Labs, we believe in the power of learning through experiences in both the physical and digital worlds. Minecraft Maker Camp embodies this belief by teaching students through unique learning experiences both inside and outside the game. This means students do not spend the entire day in Minecraft (although, we’re pretty sure they happily would if we let them!). Instead, we challenge their thinking through outside-of-game activities that they can then leverage when they return to their Minecraft builds.

For example, during the Innovative Machines curriculum, students took a break from their computers to participate in a hands-on build activity. Students were split into teams and challenged to work together to build innovative machines that moved a ball from one space to another using ramps, hoops, carts, and other physical materials.

“Outside-of-game, hands-on learning experiences help to connect and solidify learning that students are then able to apply in multiple contexts both inside and outside Minecraft,” Carnell said.

A camper experiments with propelling a minecart forward at varying rates of speed in the Innovative Machines curriculum.

Fostering meaningful connection and collaboration among peers
The Minecraft Maker Camp curriculum was designed to instill in students the importance and value of collaboration. To accomplish this, students were given several opportunities throughout camp to brainstorm ideas in small groups, share with their peers what they were building in Minecraft, ask questions, help each other solve problems, model strategies for one another, and share successes.

Throughout the day, students also participated in Genius Workshops, where more experienced students showcased a skill they had learned by teaching it to others in small groups of students interested in learning that particular skill. The more experienced students were eager to share their knowledge, and the less experienced students were excited to learn from them.

“Minecraft is a powerful tool that leverages game-based learning to teach new concepts in a fun, engaging, and collaborative way,” said Kim West, Director of Visioneering at Phygital Labs. “Seeing students of all ages collaborate, work together, and learn from each other was inspiring.”

Join us at a Minecraft Maker Camp near you this summer
This summer, Phygital Labs will be offering Minecraft Maker Camps at various locations in the Puget Sound. The summer camps will be hosted in immersive learning environments, such as the Museum of Pop Culture, fostering learning through both the physical and digital worlds. Students will visit the museum exhibits to learn about new topics and concepts, and then come back to their laptops to complete challenges in their Minecraft builds that leverage their newfound knowledge.

Check out our Minecraft Maker Camp offerings to learn more and register your camper for a fun, educational, and unforgettable experience.