Martin Luther King Jr.

This is a guest post by Allison. She is one of my students and wrote this in honor of Dr. King.

Minister Martin Luther King, Jr. preaching at an eventThis weekend is a very special weekend, not only because we don’t have school Monday but also because its Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday! Martin Luther King Jr. was a very important man in his generation and now ours. Born January 15, 1929. He was an American pastor, activist , humanitarian, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights movement.  we celebrate him because of the the way he changed  the way America viewed and treated the minority. segregation caused various races to be separate, this means different schools,hotels,and even different water fountains.M.L.k changed the way we thought about our fellow humans with his ” i have a dream ” speech. M.L.K received  various Awards for his action like the Nobel Peace Prize (1964) Presidential Medal of Freedom (1977) and Congressional Gold Medal(2004) as you can see he even got recognized after his assassination on April 4,1968 (age 39) Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.

HAPPY Martin Luther King, Jr. day! thanks for reading.    for more info

Japanese Poetry and Minecraft

I’ve had a strong desire to use Minecraft for learning about medieval Japan for quite some time. I’ve always thought that the environments generated in Minecraft worlds often have a very Japanese familiarity to them. Last December I finally acted on my long held desire and created a unit to teach medieval Japanese history concepts while emphasizing the role of social structure through both visual and written narrative.

I asked my students to choose and then research the lifestyle and role of a citizen selected from one of the following hierarchical classes:

  • Kuge Class – Emperor, Shogun
  • Buke Class – Daimyos (Lords), Hatamotos, Samurai
  • Heimin Class – peasants, artisans, merchants, monks, thieves
  • Eta Class – butchers, undertakers, dung haulers, ninja (not the Hollywood version)

They were then to write an original poem from the perspective of that citizen. During this time period, tanka (aka waka) poems were very popular. Similar to haiku, syllables were important. The syllabic pattern in Japanese for tanka is 5-7-5-7-7.

Tanka poems place emphasis on the environment and emotions – a natural bridge to connect poetic verse and model landscapes in Minecraft.

Here is an example of a poem one of my students completed. If you are a teacher, or otherwise interested in more details, you should read my Minecraft blog HERE.

Shining Sun

written by


Jerboa’s Beautiful Tail

What a busy last couple of weeks we have had. My class just finished making a video using Minecraft to tell a short story written by a friend of mine, Robert Walton. We were inspired to make the video by another friend of mine named Adam who made a video called When Stampy Came to Tea.

Our video is called Jerboa’s Beautiful Tail and tells the story of how a jerboa ( a rat-like creature found in the Sahara Desert) got its funny looking tail. The story is told through the eyes of the great West African King, Mansa Musa. You can read the story for free here.

We had a great time trying to figure out how to make this story into a video using the standard blocks and characters available in Minecraft. You will need to watch it to see what we substituted for a jerboa!

Teachers, you can see the entire process we went through and lesson plan by visiting my Minecraft in Education blog.

Off to the Races!

Yep, school has begun already here at Chalone Peaks! I’ve got a bit more work to do before getting my students set up for blogging, but regular visitors here will notice that I have already made some changes to I have a new theme and layout and will be investing more time in collecting images and videos to share as well as weekly reflections on our learning.

Photography is a hobby of mine and I will be encouraging my students to try out their skills with their camera phones. Student teams will also be making documentary movies this year. I did a similar project about 10 years ago and have decided that it is time to bring it back. I hope to generate a student digital media festival this year at our school that showcases student artists across all forms of digital media. If any of you have thoughts, ideas, or experience with this concept, please share!

Before we begin any gameplay, we are drafting a Minecraft Bill of Rights for all players.

Before we begin any gameplay, we are drafting a Minecraft Bill of Rights for all players.

As if it were even possible, we will be delving deeper into Minecraft this year as I have spent a great deal of time exploring new ways to teach and learn along with my students in Minecraft. I will have an online server up and running soon and look forward to collaborating with other teachers and students around the world on Minecraft and history projects. I was even given a class called “Minecraft Academy” to teach this year. It will be fun exploring things like redstone, command blocks, civilization building, and computer coding with Minecraft every day. How lucky am I?

I participated in several Minecraft camps this summer. Sock day!

I participated in several Minecraft camps this summer. Sock day!

Class Project: Medieval English Villages

My students and I just recently completed another Minecraft project we would like to share. We recreated five English villages (Oxford, Winchester, Canterbury, York, and Norwich) and linked them together by road. Each student made their own building or developed a resource like a planted field or orchard.

They had to create a slideshow with a description of the villagers that would have lived there along with photos and a short video tour. They learned about what life was like during that time period by living it!

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 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.

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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 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.