City Project Coming to a Close


Posted by Mrs Gielen | Posted in MinecraftEdu/Minecraft | Posted on May 2, 2013

As the school year comes to an end, our City Project is wrapping up.  There have been some ups and downs as of late, with some major violations of the rules set in place concerning the use of TNT and Nukes.   My elective class had to sit out a bit from building on the server to reflect on both their actions and on how we could move forward with finishing the city.  We also had a incident where two players were “getting on each other’s nerves” and we all witnessed bad behavior on both parts.  We held court, headed by our town mayor, to determine what actions would be taken.  Our mayor was forgiving and allowed the players back on the server, but he warned the players that any tiny infraction by either one would be met with swift justice.  He reminded all players to stay focused on the tasks at hand.

I do believe the “shenanigans” are over and the boys are once again focused on finishing the project.  As 8th graders, this is their last year at the school and some are feeling quite nostalgic.  Many have been here since they were in Prekindergarten, and facing the reality that they will be going off in different directions next year, really hits them hard as the year ends.

A tremendous amount of work has been done though, and I am so very proud of each and everyone of my “Minecraft Boys!”

Check out the student city tour videos at SchoolTube!

FTB Project Underway


Posted by Mrs Gielen | Posted in MinecraftEdu/Minecraft | Posted on March 5, 2013

The City Rises!


This semester, the students are tackling Feed-the-Beast (FTB) Mod Pack to complete the project I’ve assigned them.  FTB has several mods, each one dramatically changing the game play for Minecraft.  The mod pack we are using, courtesy of, has twenty three different mods including Buildcraft 3, IndustrialCraft 2 and ComputerCraft, just to name a few.

For our project, I challenged my students to create a city that has all the necessary buildings and services you would need to both attract and keep residents.  We spent time brainstorming what type of services you would expect to have in a city, such as power, water, police, fire, food, etc.  After coming up with the essential list of services and buildings that would be necessary, students choose which building or system they would work on.  We talked about planning and how important it was to start with a street grid.  We also talked about what buildings and services would normally be at the town center, and what type of services or structures would be in the outlying areas (i.e. farms, sewage treatment facility, etc.).

Why use the FTB mod pack?  Certainly, my students could build mock machinery and systems to represent what would be needed, but I want to challenge my “MC experts.”  Although Minecraft and FTB mechanics may not mimic real world physics and machinery exactly, it gives them a way to play with the idea of what might be needed,  to experiment with systems, and to compare how real systems differ from the game systems.  Collection of resources, delegation of responsibility, collaboration, sharing are all part of the process as well.

The students quickly realized that things would not get accomplished if they did not work as a team.  Students who wanted to tackle tasks on their own, soon learned it was more advantageous to be a part of the group.  I did have to reign them in a bit from the initial distraction of  killing “new bosses and mobs,” and crafting new armor and weapons.  I made it clear that their grade in the class was not going to be based on their skills as hunters, but on their skills as builders and as collaborators!

More pictures to come as they build their city!

Battlefields & Special Projects Complete


Posted by Mrs Gielen | Posted in MinecraftEdu/Minecraft | Posted on January 28, 2013

This past semester, my students completed custom maps as part of our Minecraft elective class.   Two teams of two have been working on Civil War battlefield maps for their American History project.  Their assignment was to research one of the major battles using the National Parks Service site as one of their sources.  One team chose the Battle of Atlanta and the other chose the Battle of Gettysburg.  Students had to meet certain class requirements for their History class as well as for my class.  For the History class project presentation, students have to know what led to the battle, why it was fought, dates, commanders, strengths, weaknesses, advantages and disadvantages, significance of particular battle, etc.  As part of my assignment, I asked my students to build a replica of the current museum for each of these battles and to complete a video tour that would cover the presentation requirements for their History class.  To view the tours of the battlefields, click on the links below.

Two other students chose to do an carnival/game project.  Prior to this, each of the students had to complete a Manor Challenge build. You can check their video tours below as well.

Battle of Atlanta

Battle of Gettysburg


Manor Challenge Videos

If you would like to download the student-created maps, you can do so here.

Experts Become Newbies Again!


Posted by Mrs Gielen | Posted in MinecraftEdu/Minecraft | Posted on November 9, 2012

Yes, expert Minecraftians can be newbies again. ” How?” you say?  Try playing TerraFirmaCraft.  That’s what happened to my elective students yesterday.   If you are not familiar with this mod, their slogan may give you a hint, “Survival as it should have been.”  Although not completely realistic, TFC does try to create a more realistic play than vanilla Minecraft.  No longer can you “punch” trees with your hand to gather wood.  No, you have to actually fashion an axe (through the process of knapping) with rocks and sticks to bring those mighty trees down.  Although it takes longer to cut through the wood, the entire tree comes down, not as blocks, but as logs.  Next, you have to splinter the logs into planks with your axe.  With these planks, you can finally begin to create your building blocks with which to build your crafting table, door, etc.  And be careful mining!  If you don’t support the ceiling (like in a real mineshaft), you could find yourself at the bottom of a pile of dirt from a cave-in.   This is just a taste of what this game-changing mod has to offer.

It took about a day and a half to get a TerraFirmaCraft server up and running for my students to experience.  I gave them a very brief introduction to the mod and told them they would need to refer to the TFC wiki on their computers since my knowledge of the game was limited.   I never realized the type of frustration and chaos that would ensue.    The chatter level reached an all-level high as they struggled to get things done.  “Guys, we got to stick together!  Everybody meet back at spawn!  Will someone please give me your coordinates?” were just a few of the outcrys.  Some ventured out on their own, only to find they were weaponless against the creatures of the night.  Others fought hard to recruit allies to help organize themselves and gather or share resources.  The outcry “I hate this mod!” did not come long after, as frustration levels rose when they tried to build something as simple as a crafting table or weapon to defend themselves.  “My heart bar is going down, how do I get it back up?” “What are those red things in the water?”   Everything old became new again.  It was absolutely wonderful!

The lesson?  Don’t ever get complacent.  You never know when your world will be turned upside down and you will need to rely on your instincts to make it through the night!


New Projects & CYM Server


Posted by Mrs Gielen | Posted in MinecraftEdu/Minecraft | Posted on October 25, 2012

We were fortunate enough this year to have our Minecraft proposal accepted by Crafting Young Minds organization which offers free space on Minecraft servers for educational projects. Although I have been using our MinecraftEdu server at school, we could not place it outside our network and we needed a server that would be available 24/7 for students to access to complete their projects. We also wanted the ability to work in different worlds which could later be available for download, so we needed a Bukkit server that could use the Multiverse plugin. The game system console is easy to use and I have been very satisfied with the host. I recommended it to any teacher who would feels comfortable with managing their own server and would like 24/7 access for their students.

Our main projects for this server are to re-create Civil War battlefields for the students’ Social Studies class. Before they got started on their battlefield projects, I assigned a small project to make sure all the plugins and configuration changes worked. Our Manor Challenge is a contest challenge taken from a Minecraft roleplay server. The challenge on the roleplay server was to create a manor for the main character in the storyline, but I modified somewhat for our class. On our home world, I built a small message board with signs for students to use to change their gamemode and with warps to their areas once they established their build site. You can view the requirements for the Manor Challenge at our wiki site. Once the students are finished with their build, they are required to record a machinima tour. The tour will take the viewer around the build and highlight how they accomplished each of the requirements.

So far, the boys have really been enjoying the challenge. A few started on their machinimas and the completed ones can be viewed at our wiki (see link above). We are using Bandicam’s free version to do our recordings. It gives the students ten minutes recording time which is perfect, since we want short, concise videos. The only drawback for the free version is the Bandicam weblink that appears at the top of the frames. I chose Bandicam over Fraps (another game capture software) because Fraps tends to be a bit of a CPU hog which may have been an issue for our school computers.

Stay tuned for more videos and more project progress!

UPDATE:  See our student Manor Challenge tours at SchoolTube.

Readjusting Goals


Posted by Mrs Gielen | Posted in MinecraftEdu/Minecraft | Posted on October 1, 2012

I think my enthusiam for my new Minecraft elective class got the better of me! I had to reevaluate the goals I set for my students after I realized they were having a difficult time meeting my expectations. Our elective only meets twice a week for approximately 45 minutes at a time, so many of the assignments I gave them had to be completed outside of class. Our 8th grade students have a very rigorous curriculum and so they have limited free time to devote to “extracurricular” activities. Our elective classes do not figure in the student’s grade point average, and therefore, their academic classes always have to come first. I certainly do not want to stress my students, so I decided to step back and reflect on which goals I think are worth pursuing that are challenging, but not overwhelming.

The ultimate goal I had for students was to create custom survival/puzzle/adventure maps, but I believe that goal might have been a bit lofty. For a custom map to be considered great or even good, it should have an engaging story, a realistic setting, and/or challenging puzzle or traps, and should give the player a good 45 minutes to an hour of play time. Yet to accomplish this, you definitely need to invest a good bit of time and you possibly need to have skills with redstone or Worldedit. Some of my students have some redstone skills, but not to the level they would need to build the type of contraptions we see in good custom maps. The other factor is how can I make their time worthwhile in terms of school credit.

In rethinking the goals, I decided to reduce the number of blogs post from two posts a week to one. Next, I decided to approach a few of their teachers to see if someone would be willing to let the students develop Minecraft projects for projects required by their curriculum. Both the Social Studies and the Science teachers were both willing to collaborate with me on projects that would work for their class. The English teacher was willing to include their blog writing as part of their grade for writing across the curriculum. All in all, it was a good day for collaboration!

So it’s a beginning. As I move through the course, I just need to remember that this is the first year and there will be lots of adjustments!

Interesting thing happened on the way to a public Minecraft server…


Posted by Mrs Gielen | Posted in MinecraftEdu/Minecraft | Posted on September 12, 2012

My sister and I started playing (and building) on a public Minecraft multiplayer server this summer, along with her thirteen year-old son. We visited different servers, but this one appealed to us both for various reasons. One feature we liked about the server is that you had to complete ten challenges before you could be promoted to the main server. Most players won’t make the effort to complete them, so the player pool is a bit more serious. We also liked the fact that the map was divided into different states, each having its own rules and policies. We were able to choose the state that best fit the type of play and builds we liked. Once we were in the server, I was pleasantly surprised that the chat between players was relatively clean and users were overall very respectful of one another. Working together, we were able to complete the challenges and were soon building away on our parcel of land.

Well this past weekend, as we prepared to enter the server to continue building, over Skype my sister exclaims “What! When I tried to login, it says that I have been permabanned for griefing a center column of a stairway!” At first, we didn’t understand what was happening and were perplexed as to why she was getting the message. I was able to login, so I knew the server was not down. We thought they may have mistaken us taking down our own stairway as griefing, but thought it would have to have been reported for her to be banned. My sister decided to check out the server forum to see if she could figure out exactly what the message meant, and found her username associated with a picture of a griefed structure which definitely wasn’t one of ours. It was then that she remembered that the previous night she had left her computer logged in and went to pick up pizza for dinner. When she returned, she found her youngest son at the computer. After dinner, when she started playing again, she noticed she had items that she had not had before and asked him about it. He said had played as her and that he took it from another building. She immediately went to the building and repaired what he had done. She asked him if this was all he taken and he said yes.

Well, the night she got this message, she asked him again and he confessed to taking down the structure in question. Being a seven year-old, he had a bit of trouble understanding that we were not playing on my personal server and that destroying someone’s virtual property would have consequences. We both spent some time trying to explain it to him in a context that he could understand, but he is, after all, a seven-year old and the abstract concept of virtual worlds is a hard one to grasp. He certainly understood that lying has consequences, since he lost his privilege to play Minecraft for a month! Fortunately, the server moderator gives players options to get back in after you’ve been banned. In order to get back in, my sister had to write a 500-word essay and choose a community service task to complete. I suggested she also have her son draw an apology picture that she could include as well (see pic below). She submitted her essay, community task and picture and was back on the server one day later.

All in all, it was a great teaching moment! One thing my sister learned. . . do not leave your Minecraft account auto logged in!

A New Year and New Goals


Posted by Mrs Gielen | Posted in MinecraftEdu/Minecraft | Posted on September 6, 2012

Well, it’s been a summer of intense Minecraft play: building bukkit servers, testing out various plugins, installing and playing mods, playing with my sister and her sons, playing with colleagues at GamingEdus, and viewing lots and lots of Minecraft gameplay commentary. I attended a fan meetup with some well-known YouTubers: Paul Soares Jr., Wolv 21, NearbyGamer, Luclin, his wife, MrsLuclin, and his son, LilEthan, and had to opportunity to get their autographs on my foam pickaxe and sword (see pics below)! I have them proudly displayed behind my desk at school and they are the envy of all my student Minecraftians. All this was done as preparation for my new Minecraft elective class that I will be offering at school this year.

September 4th was our first class meeting and already I know it’s going to be a blast. My curriculum goals are high and but I hope to cover server creation and modification, redstone development, custom adventure mapping, video game commentary and blogging. I know, I know. I may be dreaming about how much we can actually accomplish, but I have a group of enthusiastic participants who are “chomping at the bit” to get started and who want to learn it all!

As one of the requirements for the class, each student will be required to maintain a blog where they will be writing on different Minecraft topics that I will assign them, such as reviewing mods and texture packs. My hope is that they will start to blog beyond the topics I give them and branch out to cover other Minecraft topics that interest them. I think it’s important that students have the opportunity to have an audience beyond the teacher and classroom for their writing and I invite my readers to take the time to read their blogs and comment on their discussions. Links to their blogs will be listed on the right.

I can’t wait to see what the year has in store!

City Building Video


Posted by Mrs Gielen | Posted in MinecraftEdu/Minecraft | Posted on June 27, 2012

Here is the video on our city building project.  The video is a bit long, but I wanted to showcase everyone’s work:


City Building Finale


Posted by Mrs Gielen | Posted in MinecraftEdu/Minecraft | Posted on June 15, 2012

End of the year is always crazy and this year was especially busy.  I had hoped to have a weekly update on my student’s city build, but alas, time has eluded me once again.  School has ended and the students accomplished so much.  I am really proud of their builds and their ability to focus and follow my “city plans”.  I am also excited to know that I will get to continue to work with many of them next year in my 8th Grade Advanced Minecraft elective.

When we first started the project, the students were given a choice between a Medieval village or a contemporary city.  The vote was a close one, but they decided to go with the Medieval village.  Our first class was spent choosing a location from the teleport sites I created and all agreed the mountain valley was a perfect choice.  Next, we discussed what type of buildings would be needed (castle, farm, church, etc.) and who would be responsible for each one.   They spent the rest of the class period clearing trees and terrain for the areas they would be building in.  Many had not had experience in building medieval-type structures, so I did some research and brought pictures of buildings that has been done in Minecraft already.  They used the pictures as a guideline to create their structures.  As city planner, I also laid out exactly were I wanted the structures to go and assigned one student to build the roads around the village.

Every now and then in my past classes, I would have students that were really get  hooked on Scratch programming and would go to the effort of working on projects at home as well as at school.  However, I never had the enthusiasm that I had with this class working with Minecraft.  I had several students coming before and after school to work on the project, which never happened before.   Because they put in the extra time, the project really went farther than I thought it would.  One student took the time at home to draw out his design for the barn he wanted to build:


Student Barn Design

How awesome is that!

Coming soon: Machinma Video on Student Built World.

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