By Adrienne West
Worrying about how much time kids spend in front of the computer screen is one of the biggest concerns parents face today. But is there more to this Minecraft craze? What does your child really learn while building those blocks in that pixelated world?
Surviving in the Minecraft game world requires players to scavenge for livestock or mine for materials needed to build their own unique structures. They have to decide when to upgrade materials or when to save them. Things don’t always work out—one of their structures can topple if not built correctly, or monsters can come in and steal their possessions. They can work with other players to navigate different landscapes. It teaches real-world skills like strategic thinking, resource management, patience and determination among other things.
In December 2013, the American Psychological Association conducted a review of research that revealed playing video games can provide many cognitive benefits, including improvement in the areas of spatial reasoning, problem-solving and creativity. Emotional and social benefits can be seen as well, including enhanced mood, decreased stress and improved cooperation with others.
Teachers are excited about the learning opportunities possible through introducing Minecraft in the classrooms. The flexible environment of the game allows players to endlessly create and use critical thinking, which parlays into improving academic skills like math, science and computer programming. A number of schools like Lanier Middle School in Fairfax and the Academy of Christian Education in Reston offer after-school clubs featuring Minecraft platforms, and the number of participating schools is sure to increase.
Earlier this week, Microsoft announced they are acquiring MinecraftEdu, an online platform for educators to incorporate the game at their schools, and releasing a classroom version of the game this summer called Minecraft Education Edition.
Vera Lichtenberg, director at Mason Game & Technology Academy and assistant director at Potomac Arts Academy, emailed about the benefits she has seen in her students. “We know our program is a success because our students keep returning … High School students … come back and tell us that they learned coding tricks they used in their AP programming classes … This experience instills confidence, enhances communication and collaboration skills, and … builds lasting friendships.”
Local Minecraft Classes
Kids can reap the educational and social benefits (and parents will earn plenty of cool points registering them) at these local Minecraft classes:
C3 Cyber Club, 44710 Cape Court #118, Ashburn; 703-729-0985
Game and Technology Academy, 4400 University Dr, Fairfax; 703-993-9889
Mindframe Education, 44933 George Washington Blvd #160, Ashburn; 703-940-9440
Parktakes, locations in Oakton and Fairfax; 703-222-4664