PDCCC Kids College tying video games to education

Published 11:17 am Friday, July 10, 2015

Miller Zurfluh, along with other summer campers at Paul D. Camp Community College, played Minecraft as part of a STEM program that focused in part on engineering skills. -- CAIN MADDEN | THE TIDEWATER NEWS

Miller Zurfluh, along with other summer campers at Paul D. Camp Community College, played Minecraft as part of a STEM program that focused in part on engineering skills. — CAIN MADDEN | THE TIDEWATER NEWS

This past week, Bobbie Rose and other Kids College campers at Paul D. Camp Community College got to destroy mobs and take their loot — all in the name of education.

It all started around three years ago when a pair of California educators decided to do something a little different in the classroom: let the children play computer games. The popular open-ended, world-building game Minecraft, to be exact.

“I love the camp!” Rose said. “We get to play Minecraft, which is my favorite video game.”

It wasn’t all about fighting and looting, though.

“The engineering challenges have been cool — I’ve been in the group that has won both so far,” Rose said. “We had to build the tallest structure out of marshmallows. Everyone else had a taller tower than ours, but they all fell down.”

The next day, it was time to build a bridge crossing the gap over a pair of chairs with spaghetti, tape and string. First, they looked at building bridges in the game, and the camp’s coordinator, Chris Scott, taught them a little about different bridge designs that would last. Then, once that was done, they tried to repeat it in real life.

Rose, 9, along with her partner, Bianka Gonzalez-Lougheed, 9, strung the spaghetti across the chairs, with the string wrapped around it as support. The thickest bits were in the center where the pasta connection was made.

“We wanted it to be strong in the middle,” Gonzalez-Lougheed said. “Then we wanted to roll the rope around to keep it together. We cut up little pieces of spaghetti to line up around the ling pieces, taped them together and watched to see what it could do.”

Their bridge ended up holding the most weight — a plastic marker box and four pouch drinks before falling as the 20-second count began on the fifth pouch.

Sami Wellman, 12, and Shelby Lane, 9, came in second.

“We loved it — it is really fun,” Wellman said of the challenge. “I like Minecraft, and just learning new things is my favorite part.”

Lane added that the camp also teaches gamesmanship.

“I have learned this week that I should share my work, be helpful and be kind in the game,” she said.

In addition, Rose said she better learned to use the keys on the computer during the week.

Josh Edwards said he has enjoyed the learning experience, particularly in the area of teamwork.

“I have learned that if you work together, you can get stuff done,” he said. “I think it is fun to learn new ways to play, and I like helping others.”

Scott said making Minecraft fun and educational is easy. The game is fun on its own, but is even more fun when you get a group together in the same room playing. Then comes tying in education.

“The educational side is an extension of our classroom teaching experience,” he said. “As history teachers, we started by recreating historical civilizations and moved into creating societies with a social hierarchy.

“The use of Minecraft in education can’t be summed up in a few words. It’s endless. Many teachers are creating worlds where kids are adventuring through the world to learn content and many more are using Minecraft as a platform for kids to demonstrate their learning.”

The game also helps bring groups together because of the variety it provides.

“There is no one thing kids take to the best,” Scott said. “Every kid likes something different which is what makes Minecraft so powerful. One kid will want to learn how to mod while another wants to plant a garden. Both of those are very different in terms of game play.

“The most recent camp in Virginia, most of the kids seemed to like the survival challenge. The survival challenge is a checklist of activities that need to be accomplished in survival mode. The challenges range from building basic tools to creating and sharing work with others.”

Edwards admitted that the survival challenge was pretty fun.

“I have loved the survival challenge the most because it helps us learn how to play the game better,” he said.

For more information about the camp, visit www.minecraftercamp.com or call 805-863-2381.