Minechat Episode #23

Last weekend I had the chance to record a video podcast with Colin Gallagher, the creator of Minechat. It is my favorite podcast because he interviews teachers that use Minecraft in their classrooms. The really cool thing is that his interviews take place IN MINECRAFT!

He asked me to share my student’s Tang Dynasty build so I gave him a tour. You can watch the video on YouTube below.

The Adventures of Kallista Jake

I received an email late one night last week that I had been waiting for for nearly three years. Back in 2010, I had an idea to do a geocaching project with my students. If you are not familiar with geocaching, the idea is to use a GPS device like your smartphone, to locate “caches” that other geocachers have hidden all over the world. Each cache contains assorted items that folks place inside. [Learn more HERE]

Jake had the opportunity to visit Shanghai during his adventures. Photo by rangerg75
Jake had the opportunity to visit Shanghai during his adventures. Photo by rangerg75

Occasionally, you might find what is called a “travel bug” inside. It’s a dog tag with a code on it that is attached to a trinket. By visiting geocaching.com and entering the code, you’ll discover what goal the owner of the object has for it. If you can help it on its way, take it with you and deposit it another cache as soon as possible.

My students thought it would be fun to send travel bugs to our blogging buddies around the world. We assembled a collection of items to attach the bugs to and I deposited them in some local caches. All but one experienced various adventures over the course of the school year. One of our bugs even made it to Ms. Smith’s class in Canada. We celebrated with a Skype call and they made a wonderful webpage to toast our dragon :-)

The message I received the other night notified me that the last active travel bug from that batch had reached its final destination – a cache located in a forest, near a school, north of Melbourne, Australia. Our bug, named Kallista Jake, travelled over 47,000 miles to reach its goal! It passed through the hands of dozens of geocachers along the way and got a very big boost in milage from a wonderful FedEx pilot named Frank.

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 5.29.48 PM
Jake has been around the world – twice!

I’m astonished. I’ve been sending bugs around the world for several years now, but nothing like this has ever happened. The school we sent it to is on summer holiday break now so no one is around to pick up Jake. Hopefully, it will remain safe in the cache until students return.

Kallista Jake!
Kallista Jake!

You can read the original blog post I wrote as we sent off our bugs here. Kallista Jake has his own page on geocaching.com so you can check out his travels. He is currently awaiting retrieval in this cache. If any readers of my blog know any geocachers near Melbourne, please notify me :-)

Do you have any experiences you would like to share about geocaching? It is a great family activity!

You can discover for yourself where Jake is by pasting these coordinates into a mapping website like Google MapsS 37° 54.460 E 145° 21.899

He is located somewhere near this trestle!
He is located somewhere near this trestle!

Class project: Tang Dynasty capital city in Minecraft


We finished our collaborative build of the Tang Dynasty capital city of Chang’an and thought it was time to share our work. There were 145 students that worked on recreating a model of the ancient city. We built the buildings over five days and then added “info blocks” that contained a detailed description of the city residents.

It took about two-weeks to completely finish the project. I’m very proud of the work my students did, especially since most had never played Minecraft before this school year. They worked in teams, with each team assigned a city block to complete. Some of the city blocks represented peasants, others merchants or aristocrats.

If you are a teacher or parent and would like to read about it in much more detail, you can visit my teacher blog.

2013-12-15_10.22.52

2013-12-15_10.17.20

Guest Author Visit

20131218-101721.jpg

Today we got a special visit from an author, Dr. Steve Palumbi from Stanford a University. He has a new book coming out and decided to visit Chalone Peaks and talk about his favorite subject – marine biology. He spoke before a packed audience and shared his thoughts on sharks, coral reefs, “fast” fish and why fish don’t freeze in cold water and how that relates to the ice cream we all enjoy. Fascinating stuff!

20131218-101815.jpg

China Build Nearing Completion

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!

20131126-072737.jpg

Medieval China Build in Minecraft

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.

changanmapI 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!

One of our farms.
One of our farms.
Multi-family homes.
Multi-family homes.
Market stalls.
Market stalls.

 

 

 

Mandala Construction and Destruction

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.

_DSC4272
The completed mandala. Made of thousands of grains of sand.

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.

Welcome to Mr. Miller’s Classroom Blog

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.

KarottenZwiebeln 266

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!

Pinnacles National Monument (5839423135)

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!

Cube terre minecraft

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.

The Senators

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 . . .

 

The Senators from John Miller on Vimeo.