Both go to Burgess-Peterson Academy in Atlanta and are a grade apart – fourth and third. Maxey got a head start on Minecraft, discovering it through her cousins two years ago, while Woods started playing about nine months ago.
“I like how it was realistic; you could craft a boat, swim in the water and fish,” Maxey says. “You can make actual what you dream.” She also liked how Minecraft helps her to be creative and solve problems.
Woods’ favorite parts are the eggs that hatch dolphins, parrots and fish. “I just build whatever my mind came up with. I could build a house or an entire fort, anything I could imagine.”
They shared their experience with the Good Trouble lessons.
“It feels so realistic, it’s telling you true facts about all those people,” says Woods, who appreciated learning about Black people in a historical context, in addition to what he’s already picking up in class through Black History Month lessons. His favorite subject in school is social studies. “I learned about John Lewis and what he did. There’s activities, videos and guides. It’s an open world place where you can just explore. It’s an adventure going to every person.”
Maxey, whose favorite subject is reading, liked doing all those things too, and learning about the women’s suffragette movement in the U.K.
“I was more into Malala. I like that she stands up for women’s rights and for people to go to school, not just boys, but boys and girls,” says Maxey, who volunteers to show off the character on her screen and how it talks to her when she toggles a button.
“If you look outside a window in Good Trouble, you can see people outside holding Black Lives Matter signs,” she adds.
Both really liked how the lessons reflected the world they live in – and the people around them daily.
Natasha Rachell, a digital learning specialist for science for Atlanta Public Schools and former high school science teacher, worked with Ford and Ken Shelton to create the Good Trouble lessons.
“Felisa and I both had the pleasure of meeting John Lewis numerous times. He was an amazing human being with such a gentle heart. He really cared about people and children and reading, so if you go into the Minecraft world you’ll notice books that line the street where he is,” says Rachell, who has a doctorate in organizational leadership with an emphasis in effective schools. “I think it came out at the perfect time, but it does make me sad that he’s not here to see what we created.”
Her sons introduced her to Minecraft. They’d spend hours building and creating. Back then, she only thought of it as a video game. She’d tell her boys to turn it off. Then the Education Edition came out and the training opened her eyes.
“You see the value in it. Your whole perception totally shifts,” she says. “Then I was OK, play it all you want!”
Her younger son, she says, “will take things apart and put them back together. He has told me he wants to pursue engineering as a career. And I really do believe being exposed to Minecraft had something to do with that.”
Her experience in understanding the benefits of Minecraft helped her convey its value to other teachers.
“All they have to do is take that lesson plan and execute it. Minecraft is a tool for the students to be able to deliver the content, and so I always talk to teachers about not having to be the experts in Minecraft,” Rachell says. “I compare Minecraft to being the equivalent of PowerPoint or a Word document or something like that. It’s a tool that your students are going to use to showcase their learning, so you don’t have to be the expert in Minecraft.”
Students also learn to work together within Minecraft, building a community that gives them collaboration skills useful in their future life. And right now, with so many students still learning at home, it’s an opportunity to check out the Good Trouble lessons.
“They are creating in their learning, they’re being innovative and going through the learning process or the design process so they‘re having fun and playing,” Rachell says. “I think in a remote setting it’s almost a seamless process. This is like the perfect time to have students jump into Minecraft.”
Head over to Minecraft: Education Edition if you want to learn more.
Lead image: Screenshot from Minecraft Good Trouble lessons showing activists from the Black Lives Matter movement as they stand together and seek justice for the Black community.