April 15th, 2024

Crestwood students play at city planner in Minecraft

By ANNA SMITH Local Journalism Initiative on March 20, 2024.

Tech education teacher Dave Van Leeuwen addresses students on an empty lot that will become affordable housing, as part of a field study with Crestwood School students.--News Photo Anna Smith

asmith@medicinehatnews.com

Crestwood School students took a walk out to a site slated for the construction of affordable housing on Wednesday, as part of an ongoing project connecting work on the computer to real life.

For the past several months, students have been experimenting with different structures within created models of empty lots in the city, creating possible versions of affordable housing and an assisted living facility in the video game Minecraft, said Dave Van Leeuwen, tech education teacher.

“Today we’re doing a field study for a Minecraft education project that the kids are working on,” said Van Leeuwen. “In Calgary, the CBE for a lot of years has been doing this Minecraft education project where they have real-life locations in Calgary and then students design stuff. And then he gets judged by the city and it’s a whole partnership. So we started doing that with Medicine Hat as well.”

Students have been asked to consider much of the same work that a city planner would do, from the cost of the amenities to simple things such as how tall, precisely, an apartment building should be.

“It’s really cool because it’s building connections to their community right there, kind of seeing the spots in real life that they’re building on and making connections to the surroundings and so on,” said Van Leeuwen.

The project has connections to math, social studies and a variety of soft skills such as spatial awareness, creativity and design and collaboration, through helping each other with the computer skills necessary to operate Minecraft as a program.

Student Sophia Paul was excited to speak on her project, and how she’s been hard at work creating a community kitchen and garden for her hypothetical affordable housing units.

“I’ve been thinking very hard about what I’m doing. Making sure it’s affordable for everybody, making sure it’s not too expensive,” said Paul. “I had a pool but then I changed it, because it was too expensive, and I realized the YMCA was right there.”

Crestwood School is the first school to agree to trial this program in the city, said Van Leeuwen, but the results so far have been very positive, with great buy-in from the students both in the classroom and on the field study, as they filled out a worksheet to help them connect what they’ve been working on for several months with the actual site in question.

“Most kids have had some kind of experience with Minecraft before,” said Van Leeuwen. “It’s a video game that’s been around for a long time, and a lot of them have played it in some kind of form. So they’ve already got the base skills, they know how to use the game. Which lets them just dive right into the learning essentially, with this activity.”

In the coming months, Van Leeuwen expects students to be able to see the concepts they’ve been learning reflected in the actual construction taking place on the sites, and relate what they worked on to real-life infrastructure and buildings.

“More than anything, it’s about the kids going through and building something that is real and tangible,” said Van Leeuwen. “I think kids are going to see connections between their designs and what’s built at the end of the day.”

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