Minecraft Club

There was obvious demand at my library for Minecraft programming, but I hesitated for weeks about what kind of program to do. It was important to me that the time we spent in the program would be educational and not just computer lab time to fight PVP – partly because I don’t feel like that’s worth my time and effort, and partly because ‘lab time for fighting PVP’ is what our internet computers are used for every day after school anyway 🙂

Minecraft Club, Grades 4-6: Get together with other superfans to show off your builds, trade ideas, and work as a team to build big stuff! Registration required (limit 10).

I got advice from the nice people at the Schaumburg Township District Library and the Glenview Public Library, which both run similar Minecraft Clubs. I took their ideas and advice and added my own to make Minecraft Club at my own library!

Major, Important Things To Know for N00bs:

  • You have to know how to play this game before you even put the club on your library calendar. At minimum, spend 5 hours playing.
  • The mobile version of the game – Pocket Edition – does NOT have all the features of the full computer game (joining large multiplayer servers is the biggest missing feature)
  • You CAN buy the game online with a credit card: it costs $27.95 per account. I didn’t want to spend any effort, money, or time on hosting servers for Minecraft Club, so I designed a curriculum that could be done without any multiplayer gaming.
  • Most of the kids who sign up will already know their stuff, probably even better than you do: use them as a resource to help other kids who aren’t as advanced or who are having trouble with their technology

photo 1

Prizes: buttons (made by me on the library’s button machine) are the most popular. I’ve made 5 or 6 different designs but the creeper (pictured) is the best one. Bookmarks, designed/printed/laminated by me, have been popular too. I’ve also given away single pieces of candy, but the prizes go over much better when they are Minecraft themed.

Our equipment: 3 iPads, 3 iPad minis, and 3 laptop computers (kids are invited to bring their own devices, too); 3 unique library-owned Minecraft accounts ($27.95 each); Minecraft Pocket Edition for the library’s iPads ($6.99 for multiple devices)

Prep: Download or install Minecraft on all machines. Set up machines at tables with appropriate charging capabilities and launch the game (have it up and running before the kids arrive)

Outline:

  • 15 minutes – settle in, logging on/tech hiccups, rules, and introduction
    • Kids are allowed to play however they want: they can join another person’s LAN game or a multiplayer server; they can start a brand new world all on their own; they can play in Survival or Creative mode. Most of them chose LAN games in Creative mode (which means they are in the same virtual space as other MC Club players and they have unlimited access to all resources).
  • 85 minutes – timed building challenges (anyone who completes the challenge or makes a reasonable effort to do so earns a prize)
    • 5 minutes to build a water fountain
    • 5 minutes to build a truffula tree
    • 10 minutes to build a tree house
    • 20 minutes to build a pirate ship
    • repeat as needed with different time allotments/builds
  • 30 minutes – free play

As written, this is a two hour program. It could easily work in 90 minutes or even in 60, as long as you’re prepared to lose up to 15 minutes to initial setup. In my experience, the kids roundly rejected free play in favor of more building challenges, so come prepared with a few extra ones. I also experimented with doing 30 minutes of watching Minecraft youtube videos at the start of the program, but this got lukewarm reception so I nixed it.

But Maggie, that sounds complicated. Why should I bother with Timed Building Challenges? 

Because TBCs are the best and the greatest! They are a phenomenal way to introduce STEAM into your program: geometry, math, and engineering are intrinsically important to Minecraft – you literally can’t play without encountering these concepts. TBCs allow you to focus on them individually and take all of the fighting and most of the competition out of the game. TBCs also encourage concentration and critical thinking: there is always deathly silence in the room while my timer counts down because everyone is concentrating so hard. Then, when time is up, they beg for more time (I always say yes). Finally, we all stand up and circle around the room so everyone can share what they’ve created. The kids are always very proud of what they’ve made, and the only thing they love more than showing it off? Blowing it up with TNT! I grabbed these screenshots before the fuse blew:

IMG_0002challenge: 10 minutes to build a giant doghouse (Yes, that’s Clifford in there)

IMG_0003challenge: 20 minutes pixel art (left – swords) and 20 minutes to build a roller coaster (right)

update from October 2015: I have tweaked and improved this program and refashioned it to fit a new library environment, one with a larger budget and a larger group of registrants. You can read about it here.

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