We are almost finished with our collaborative build of the ancient Chinese city of Chang’an and I wanted to provide an update. Buildings are mostly finished and now students are working on writing their tales of the building occupants.
Each student will place an “info block” next to their building that will contain information about the building and/or the occupants. I’ve had my room open at lunch for the past few days and I’ve had a full house each day!
Wow! I can’t believe how time has flown by this school year. We have been VERY busy learning about Islam, Africa, and now China. I will be posting some projects we have completed and continue to work on starting today.
As a culminating lesson for China, my students and I are collaboratively building a model of the ancient Chinese capital city of Chang’an. The period we are studying is known as the Tang Dynasty and it is also known as a Golden Age for China. Culture, the Arts, and trade flourished during this time period. The capital city was immense in size and supported more than one million people.
Below is an image of how Chang’an was laid out into 110 massive city blocks.
I have 145 students working on this project and we are building it using MinecraftEdu. It is going really well. Most of my students have never played Minecraft before, but they are learning very fast. We are trying to make the buildings appear like they did 1,300 years ago. We have some farms, three parks, government administrative buildings, an Imperial Palace and garden, and two open air markets.
Each building will have an info block that will contain information about who lives or works in each building. We will also populate it with many non-player characters which will interact with student visitors to the city. Right now, we are not quite half way done, but we wanted to share a few images of the city so far. Enjoy!
Over the weekend I had the opportunity to witness a mandala being created by eight Buddhist monks from India. They were on a fundraising tour of our area. Over two weeks they demonstrated many aspects of Tibetan culture.
The highlight for me was the creation of a mandala. A mandala is a “sand painting” that represents a spiritual view the universe. The mandala that I witnessed was constructed over four days and was designed by the Dalai Lama. It shows the religions of the earth coexisting in peace.
The monks mediate and pray while they make the mandala to bring themselves to a state of peace. It is created with colorful crushed stone sand, often placed one grain at a time, to create a beautiful image.
Once the mandala is finished, a “deconstruction” ceremony takes place. Incense is lit to purify the area, the monks chant a series of three prayers, and then the mandala is destroyed by brushing the sand into a single pile.
The sand is scooped up and taken to a body of flowing water where it is released in another ceremony. The sand, in spirit, makes its way to the ocean where the prayers it carries cross the earth.
Below is a video I made of the deconstruction ceremony.
Hello new visitors! We are taking part in the class blogging challenge run by the awesome folks at Edublogs and our first challenge is to introduce ourselves.
Our school is a middle school located along the Central Coast of California, in Monterey County. We live in a rural area and our town is pretty small, about 10,000 people. There are lots of agricultural fields surrounding the city where food is grown year round. Some popular food grown around here are onions, lettuce, garlic, broccoli and cauliflower.
Do you have farms around where you live? What kinds of food to you grow?
We are also located near the United States newest National Parks, called Pinnacles. It is an extinct volcano that has many hiking trails throughout. It is also great for one of Mr. Miller’s favorite activities – rock climbing!
Are there any fun places to hike, swim, or enjoy the outdoors around where you live?
We have about 750 students on our campus. It is a pretty new school, only about seven years old. The students in Mr. Miller’s class have netbooks that are used everyday. We also have Google accounts that we use for email and to create and share documents. We also use Minecraft for learning in history class. It is still very new to many students, but they are catching on FAST!
Do you have Google at your school? Do you play Minecraft at home, or at school?
We update our blog once or twice a week. Each student will have their own blog where they will be writing about what they learn, but also what they want to share with their visitors. A few students have their blog ready now, but many more will be coming online over the next month. You can visit them by clicking on the Student Blog link in the sidebar.
This year I am having fun introducing role play as a learning tool to my students. My 7th grade history colleague and I are creating a series of videos we hope will help our students understand some of the deeper concepts in history. In this video, we portray Roman Senators who are trying to get away with something.
One of the reasons for the collapse of the Western Roman Empire was . . .
We have begun the school year with an explosion of positive energy in my classroom. Students are excited and so am I. It was a long and fabulous summer for me as I had time to participate in many of my favorite activities.
As posted earlier, I co-founded a series of workshops known as Minecrafter Camps here on the Central Coast of California. I also had the pleasure of participating in a great two day professional development opportunity aboard the USS Hornet aircraft carrier located in Alameda, California. This was one in a collection of CUE (Computer Using Educators) “Rockstar” teacher tech camps found all over California each summer.
I was able to spend time with my wife and our dogs high up in the Sierra camping and rock climbing. We were joined by many of our friends which made it even more special. I was able to enjoy some down time away from school and technology while enjoying nature and catching up on my reading.
So far this year we have been learning how to use Google Maps to better understand geography and history and our place in the world. My kids also received their Google accounts and have been exploring Gmail and Drive together. My classroom is completely digital this year, every student has a netbook that they can use while in class. We are not a 1:1 school yet, but I am fortunate to have the netbooks for student use each day.
We are also just beginning to set up our student blogs. I am teaching a game design class this year and students in that course have already set up their blogs. You can visit them throughout this first semester by looking for the links in the column on the right. I have lots of plans and fun ideas to share through this blog and I hope you return and learn more about my wonderful class.
We are out for Summer break, but I am keeping myself very busy. I’ve already put on a Minecraft Camp with two colleagues that was a tremendous success. I’ve also been planning for next year’s curriculum change to Common Core. I’m looking forward to seeing this blog evolve with me as I challenge my students to learn history from the inside out.
Look for an announcement of a new blog for me as I spin off my experiences developing curriculum that uses Minecraft to teach medieval history.
Every year, our 7th graders participate in a Medieval Faire sponsored by their history teachers. It’s one of my favorite activities of the year. I got to pretend to be a peasant with a wee bit of the plague.
This week I’d like to highlight a post by Areli that she wrote for the Edublog Challenge. I think it is wonderful. You can visit her blog by clicking HERE.
For Challenge#5 I have decided to write about my baby sister, Airani. Here is a picture of her in her ankle-foot braces and walker. Enjoy!
In 2010, my brother, sister, and I were expecting a new baby sister to join our family. We were very excited and anxious, and my parents already had a name for her–Airani. Unfortunately, the doctors had informed our parents that the new baby would be a little, extra special compared to other babies. Airani was diagnosed with a birth defect called spina bifida. Spina bifida is when the tissue surrounding the spinal cord does not develop completely and (many times) nerves in that specific area are affected. Airani’s spina bifida condition does not allow her to move or feel her feet, not allowing her to walk.
That August, we welcomed our new little sister into the world. After three weeks in the hospital, she finally came home. Airani is now two years old and will be turning three on August 5th. Right now she is going to physical therapy to help her become stronger from her lower body and she has definitely found her ways to move about, usually to find Mom. When Airani was younger, she would roll around on her back to reach a certain destination. Now that she is older, she is bending her knees and is trying to crawl! She does move around quite well now. In order to stand properly, she needs to be wearing her ankle-foot braces so her feet can stay straight. Since she is growing and people can’t be carrying her all the time, she is using a walker to help her move around as well and is soon to have her new wheelchair. That’s pretty exciting!
Airani has made great improvements and (hopefully) will continue to make more throughout her life. She cannot walk now; however, there is a possible chance that she will be able to someday. Even though she is limited in what she can and cannot do, we still make her a part of everything and try to be creative so that she can participate. Seeing her and how strong she has become is more than I could have ever asked of a happy, healthy little sister and I hope that Airani won’t give up on her dreams.