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Minecraft Group Projects in Schools

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avatar Piano_Creeper
Retired Moderator
Level 46 : Master Architect
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Warning - Text & Content is relatively old, delayed the release of it because I missed some part of the presentation, decided to upload it without now.

Hello fellow minecrafters, today I'm (more or less) back with another blog.
This time, I'm sharing some hints on minecraft projects in school, mostly based on a personal experience.

Some time ago (summer 2013), a school nearby asked me if I could manage a building project for one week, together with a group of students.
I obviously accepted that request, group building is fun and most of the students will put effort in such projects, rather than putting effort in knitting or woodwork.
During this week, I learned many things, most of them will be a part of this blog.

When you want to have such a project at a school... what needs to be done first?
The gathering of ideas, including the topic, the place, the server setup...

No matter if you are a student or a teacher, if you want such a project, START gathering ideas, fixed concepts will be realised earlier than vague ideas, some main points are:
(1) What should be built?
A nice and usually good choice is rebuilding the school building, it's not too basic, and it requires *cough* some *cough* time (and both teachers & students will have a relation to the project)
My project got split: On the one hand, we built the school, on the other hand, we built some western-styled area.
The project was during a project week (not sure if other school systems (Germany) have similar things too, correct me if yes) with the topic "Wild West & Northern America"
And rebuilding NYC is not a thing of a week (ask C_B_John if you disagree), so we made something stereotypical western:
A western village with saloon and all such nice things, a railway & a village of native americans on the other side of the railway...

(2) How should the students build together?
It is kinda obvious that you need a network to build together, but a network via the internet also has a big potential of distraction; we set it up as a completely offline network via LAN, no internet access for anybody (it would limit the productivity to ~ 0%) If you have multiple projects at once, use a multi-world plugin, it eases up many things...
The server itself should be hosted by the school (or from a students PC, many guys put way more effort in minecraft & minecraft at school than the school learning process itself)
Creative mode is not only recommended, it is necessary; a permission plugin is also recommended, not all guys should get OP, only the manager of the group and some guys who KNOW the game AND are mature enough to use it correctly..
The normal players should get teleport perms, but worldEdit or even VoxelSniper should be a OP-only matter, otherwise there could be a mess pretty fast...
FireSpread & IceMelting should be disabled too, it simplifies the creative building process, the placing of TNT should be prohibited! (I guess you can imagine what happens if it isn't)

(3) How much time do you want to spend in this project?
The project itself should run for about a week:
One day to present the idea to the students & teaching some basic concepts of building
One (or two) day(s) to get a basic structure;
Two (or one) day(s) to do details, increasing the projects quality
One day to prepare a presentation (because running such a project without a proper presentation isn't nice)
If you rebuild the school buiding(s), screenshots or even a cinematic are a nice thing to put on the website of the school
My group made a cinematic of the western world (some students arrived 1.5 hrs before school started and left school 4 hrs after it ended) and a presentation of (shader) screenshots with contents from both maps. Minema & Camerastudio are pretty nice for a easy cinematic.

(4) What groups of students should be picked to build?
That's a matter where the teachers should have the choice:
You are usually building, not raiding or griefing... and many persons, especially in the age of students, prefer the last two options.
The general behaviour should be appropriate, having some troublemakers in a team is not funny, neither for the organizers, the builders nor the manager.
All of them should be able to work with & help each other.
A creative side (= art classes results) and a good knowledge of the game mechanisms is always helpful,
it is NOT necessary that every person in the group has played minecraft before,
it is also not necessary that they bought the game, if you use an offline network, nobody will bite you for using a cracked game (even If I don't enforce it)
You would have the choice between buying the game (26,99$) or giving them a already running version (0$), if you work on school PCs, you can simply delete the .minecraft folder when the project is over
It's kinda obvious that more people will apply than you could use, a group of 15 or less is recommended, it would be too much trouble otherwise.

The teamwork in preparation & execution of the project should follow this routine:
Organizer:
- find a topic for the project
- choose the participants (together with the teachers)
- evaluate the server possibilities with admins, staff & students
   (And make sure that Minecraft will run on the school PCs, it was pretty hard on ours)
- set up a network

Manager:
- advanced minecraft knowledge, he is the one who should help the students out if they have questions
- lead & manage the project for the time, giving constructive criticism, helping to build
- keep the group together & focused, avoid & solve conflicts
- structure the group, divide them into smaller build teams (i.e. one for the western city, one for the native village, one for the school)
- organize & gather ideas for the presentation

Students:
- build, help to gather ideas (if they want)
- help each other, support the manager with ideas (especially the OPs - "A tree of this shape would look nice there")

The OPs won't be able to build much, especially not in the first days, there are usually more questions than one can answer.
It is NOT necessary that the organizer is a teacher of the school, initial work, done by students, is usually better, they're SHOWING that they WANT this project.
Discussing the matter with teachers (IT teachers, sometimes even art/music teachers, also admins), giving them opportunity to criticise or support your work, might improve your chances to have a project, but the argumentation needs to be good.

After all these theoretical facts - some facts & results of my group project:

During their last week of school in summer terms, we ran that project, managed by me (and at a later state, by my brother too since he had nothing else to do).
Out of 110 students, 66 applied to join us, 12 of them got picked to build (6th to 9th grade).
One of the students (an organizer) brought his machine to school and ran the server on it, I provided the minecraft clients (Minecraft 1.5.2, slightly modified [Optifine, Minimap mod, SinglePlayerCommands, TooManyItems])
3 of them never played minecraft before, but they were more creative than some who played it for months ;)
We started on flat maps and built our way through the ideas, using worldEdit to terraform & Lentebriesje's Custom Tree repository for the custom trees.
These were the results after 4 days of building (the 5th day was the day of the presentation):

Images - School Project - School building & Western theme


























































If you want - I can publish the two worldsaves created during the week if there's enough interest
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