Review Blog

Aug 02 2018

Unofficial Minecraft STEM lab for kids by John Miller and Chris Fornell Scott

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Quarry Books, 2018. ISBN 9781631594830
Apparently, 74 million people play Minecraft each month, one of those is Miss 12 who is now hooked on coding, and many of whom are in schools where the game is being used in many scenarios as part of the everyday learning experience. For some time, the teacher librarian networks I belong to have been peppered with queries about how it can best be used and so a book that specifically focuses on its use in the science, technology, maths and engineering strands will be of great value to teachers whose students are clamouring for these sorts of experiences but whose personal knowledge and skills of the game are not as developed as those of those they teach.
Beginning with a thorough explanation of what Minecraft is, how it works, how it can be used and played and purchased so that parents and teachers understand its value both in school and beyond - the book's focus is 'to connect the Minecraft player(s) in their life with STEM learning... to help bridge the gap between game-play and engaging STEM concepts" - it moves on to six themed quests, each of which presents four labs, which, in turn, have two parts - an out-of-game activity that requires hands-on exploration and an in-game building and crafting activity.
Quest 1: Pistons, Rails, and Redstone
Quest 2: Construction Zone
Quest 3: The Sky is Not Your Limit
Quest 4: Rocks, Minerals, and Gems
Quest 5: Cycles in Science
Quest 6: Engineering Challenge
In terms of the quality of content, Miss 12 would probably be a better reviewer than I, but in her absence, this review by a Minecraft expert suggests that it is "outstanding" and gives a comprehensive tour of the contents and layout. The credentials of the authors also convince me of its authority. However, as a non-Minecraft person who wears a teacher's hat, it would seem to me to be the perfect tool to not only capture an audience who prefer gaming to reading but also to use its user-friendliness to explore things not necessarily intellectually or physically in the teacher's toolbox. Added to that is this article which shows that onscreen adventures are leading children to discover their origins in print.
I'm beginning to see what all the conversations have been about and why there is such excitement about this game that demands so much more of the student than pressing buttons or manipulating levers.
Barbara Braxton

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