Renton Prep students moving to an entirely remote learning environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic forced our students to adapt quickly. While as a school we have equipped ourselves for remote learning, much of the weight of the transition fell onto the students to keep up. Despite continually learning behind a screen, our 7th and 8th grade classes have thrived in their coursework, thanks in part to technology like Minecraft Education Edition, Microsoft Teams, and other various Microsoft education tools.
Our middle school students have demonstrated consistency, dedication to their education, and excellence in their work during remote learning. Although there have been changes to how students collaborate, our 7th and 8th grade students have shown promise in staying focused.
“I realized that if I was going to keep my grades good, that I was going to have to work hard and act like I was still at school,” Renton Prep seventh-grader Madison Hull said. “We all learned together new things about the technologies we were using, and we have been able to use it to create a normal classroom again.”
Our students excelled in their collaborative projects, done exclusively in an online learning environment. Students had two projects to complete in Minecraft. One was a math project. Students had to create shapes in Minecraft, then calculate the volume, surface area, and slicing cross-section.
In the second Minecraft Education project, students were tasked with creating a sustainable city in Minecraft. Students worked together to showcase their understanding of a science unit on Sustainability, Human Impact, and Pollution.
“What I have enjoyed most about the projects in Minecraft is that they are a fun way to do a project, but also because it’s a more visual way of learning,” Renton Prep seventh-grader Renee Chiang said. “I am more of a visual learner. I understand things more when I can see an example or model of the concept, which is why I think Minecraft has helped me understand concepts from class better.”
The students who worked on the Minecraft projects were Madison, Renee, Sara Navarrete, Samara Cooper, and Henrielle Simplicio.
To display comprehension of the Sustainability, Human Impact, and Pollution unit, students were asked to go above and beyond. In groups, they were asked to create a city that could house 1 million people and was sustainable.
“We opened our mind to a whole other side of creativity,” Madison said. “The process showed how five minds came together to make a giant city that we ended up enjoying at the end.”
“The Minecraft projects do help a lot with understanding because you have to really understand every part of the topic and subject to be able to create something that represents what we have learned,” Samara said. “It would be impossible to create something with no clear understanding of our learning.”
Students were free to include whatever they wanted in their city. The cities included everything from hospitals, high-rise apartments, restaurants, creative centers, and even a monorail for public transit. The teams collaborated to bring the cities across the finish line.
“[The projects] showed ingenuity and their ability to think beyond what’s expected,” said Renton Prep middle school teacher Michele Falcao. “Their visual design pieces which involves different areas of learning were creative and thought-provoking.”
At Renton Prep, technology is the fuel to our education. With technology, students learn to use their voice to contribute solutions to the challenges of our global community. Minecraft is just one form of technology that prepares students for the future. These activities help in building soft skills like collaboration and critical thinking.
“There are many different ways to make projects and display them as well but, when you get to do it through a video game, you can be more creative and feel less pressure,” Madison said.
Minecraft’s open-learning environment gives students the freedom to express themselves in unique ways. Using a virtual environment creates real-world application of STEM topics.
Many of our middle school students echoed the sentiment that the transition to remote learning hasn’t been too difficult. Other than communicating exclusively through devices, they’ve adapted well to learning virtually.
With Microsoft Teams, there’s a system in place for students to communicate when they can’t physically be together. Teams is not only used in remote learning but every day.
“The hard work of our school’s faculty has made me adapt to remote learning comfortably and with calmness,” Henrielle said. “I’ve stayed focused during remote learning by just simply making sure that I get work done like I’m at school, but making sure I’m able to have breaks.”
“I miss the face-to-face interaction and feel it is sometimes hard to interact with friends when you can’t see them,” Sara said. “But collaborating with classmates virtually is not very hard.”
Middle schooler’s success during this period demonstrates self-regulation, motivation, and skills that will help them in college and remote work. They consistently attended class calls and completed daily assignments in a timely manner.
“Their daily attendance on mandatory calls and work expectations for daily assigned tasks has not altered since we began remote learning,” Ms. Falcao said. “This group of students are quiet and understated in their learning.”
Our technology-enabled curriculum means incorporating devices in our activities, including using Minecraft for education. Of course, as remote learning became the norm, we adjusted our curriculum as well. We are extremely proud of our middle school students for their hard work during this challenging time.
Want to learn more about how we’re embracing technology in our classrooms? Contact us today if you have any questions or concerns, we’d love to hear from you!