Today was the second week and second meeting of our “Maker’s Club” for 4th and 5th graders at my elementary school. The post, “Project 1845 and the Forbidden City of China” describes some of the things students in our club did on our two MinecraftEDU servers this afternoon. I’m starting a 3 day series of lessons tomorrow with students in my STEM class on MinecraftEDU, and this time I really want to step things up beyond the “tutorial world” introduction I used last semester as well as the 3 Minecraft Challenges I devised which could be improved in lots of ways. Some of my students have been talking to me about “building challenges,” and this evening I was really inspired by the 20 minute YouTube video, ” Minecraft Building Challenge – Ep 3 – Floating Mansions.”

I’d like to create a flatworld in Creative Mode with similar fenced off areas, which students can move/fly to for a building challenge with a simple prompt. One of our servers (a Mac Mini) has 16 GB of RAM on it, so I’m hoping I can have all my students (29 in my largest class) on the same server without it getting “laggy.” (To use the Minecraft parlance of my students.) The 30 x 40 block creation area from that video seems like a good size. Last semester when we used my desktop Dell computer with 4 GB of RAM as our primary Minecraft LAN server, it got pretty laggy for students when we had more than 20 connecting a time. Connecting in a flatworld in creative mode will require far fewer server resources, I’m thinking, than “regular” survival mode with buildings, monsters, etc. Rather than have students building on their separate computers, I’m thinking it will be cool to have them building in the same world for a time limit (like maybe 15 minutes) and then we can fly around together and inspect / evaluate the creations of each other.

My Minecraft guru son recommended I try using the free program MCEdit, which is an “open source world editor” for Minecraft. I used it this evening to create a relatively crude “start” on my imagined competition world, with 30 different fenced areas. I created the first competition area in MinecraftEDU in Creative Mode, using just fencing, some stone for the entrance and sandstone for the number in the center. I duplicated it to make a row of 10, then duplicated/cloned that row of 10 to make two more rows for a total of 30 competition areas. They are not lined up perfectly, but since this was my first attempt at this I’m still fairly pleased with the results. I didn’t change all the numbers yet, and I actually think I want the areas a little closer to each other, but this is a good start.

I’m going to post this to the MinecraftEDU teachers Google Group and see if someone else has already created a downloadable competition world for 30 students to use simultaneously. I’m thinking for the numbers in the center of each one it will be easier to use Roman numerals instead of regularly shaped numbers, but perhaps I can find suggestions for “block numbers” that I can replicate.

I really feel like a true “beginner” creating like this in Minecraft, but it’s fun and I’m sure my students are going to be excited by the possibilities. I learned today how to fly in creative mode. Double tap the space bar to start flying, then press the spacebar to rise, the shift key to go down/sink.

Lots of learning and problem solving in this creative activity for sure!

If you have any suggestions for me or for our Maker’s Club, I’d love to hear them via a comment or tweet to @wfryer!

Update: Here’s the link to my Minecraft Teachers’ Google Group post.

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