I think the recent meeting of the Minecraft club has been the most successful so far. I learned last week that the students want a challenge, a problem to solve, but they also want a way to preserve their work from week to week. So my new strategy for the group is to have some sort of challenge for them to complete, and upon completion reward them with free-build time. All of this will take place in the same world, but I will keep the challenge areas in a different part of the world from where they are working on their village. This week was the first time I experimented with the teleportation and information blocks included in the EDU mod. Those were handy. I had a little bit of problem with the info blocks teleporting people above ground when you walked over them, but I solved that by putting a block on top of them. The teleporters were great for allowing students to explore the world to find the perfect building spot and making it easy for them to find the spot again, or allow others to easily to see what everyone else was up to.
The students had become fairly proficient navigators of Minecraft, but they had no experience in caves or relying on torches for light. So for yesterday's challenge I used the no-clip build mode to fly underground and find an expansive cave network. After exploring the cave and blocking off a couple of side passages I decided it would work for what I wanted to do. Students began in one end of the cave, had unlimited torches, and had to find their way out. It went fairly smoothly, with students splitting up in the cave to explore the different passages. The final challenge of the cave was that once they found the exit, they had to swim up a waterfall to reach it. Slightly counter-intuitive, but they figured it out quick enough. The best moment of the day happened when one student exited the cave, saw the world outside, and exclaimed, "Oh wow!" From that point on they rushed out into the world, staking claims and beginning construction. While they were in the cave I kept them out of creative mode so they couldn't just bust their way out, but once they were above ground I put them in creative mode. I would like to do something with survival mode in the future, maybe a shipwreck-type simulation with a journaling component, but that can wait for another time.
This week at the after-school program students were doing some experiments with circuits and lightbulbs, which could segway perfectly into beginning some work with redstone in MC. I could easily integrate this into my new strategy of giving students a problem to solve with the reward of free-build time. An assignment might look like this: "Create a circuit to open this door using elements x, y, and z. Beyond the door lies a teleporter to take you to your village." I could create some sort of math challenge, requiring students to build a structure with certain square footage or volume requirements, or do an architecture project where they need to draw up plans for a structure on grid paper and then build it in game. Feel free to offer ideas for other challenges or ways I could be using this tool in the comments -- all input is valuable.