Educational content for parents

14th April 2018

Lesson Objectives: After the session today the players will

  1. Be able to identify and understand some basic construction of medieval buildings around 1200 A.D.
  2. Develop problem solving skills to ensure a successful attack/defence of an early Saxon fortress
  3. Be able to contextualise a village home, a barracks, a dungeon and stables, and understand their purpose in a medieval community.
  4. Develop skills in minecrafting using name-tags, anvils and experience points to discover hidden ‘features’ in game.

In today’s session we built on the skills from the previous session continuing to look at medieval fortresses and the buildings that make up a medieval community.

We started off playing a warm up world whilst people arrived. “Find your way out!” is a puzzle map that tests players skills in problem solving, experiential learning and Minecraft abilities (jumping, creeping and running) to escape each room and move through to the end of the map. It is an interesting map because not all is as it seems… for example the players have to do ‘leaps of faith’ into lava (which will kill them normally) and they find they fall through into a pool of water which immediately saves them, but they are not aware of the water when they make their ‘leap of faith’.

This map “Find your way out”, can be downloaded from the Heron Mill page (as can all worlds we play.) Download the zip file. Unzip it. Put it in your “saves” folder in Minecraft. A tutorial showing you how to do this will be available here very soon.

We then went on to the Medieval Milnthorpe world that we had been working on previously and used a different version of it (“14-1 Defend the fort“) to set up two teams against each other. One team had to defend the fort from attack whilst the others attacked it.

The teams were unevenly balanced, as they would have been in the middle ages. The side defending the fort were better equipped with swords, bows and iron armour, whilst the attacking side only had leather armour. However, they had a trick up their sleeve! They had flame enchanted books and an anvil! These two items would allow the players to create “flaming arrows” which not only do arrow damage, but also flame damage. They also would enable the attacking side to burn down the wooden walls of the fort…. if only they had realised how to craft flaming arrows!

It was apparent that few of the players knew how to combine an enchanted book with a bow on an anvil to make it a “flame bow”. This highlighted the levels of skill that the players had and enabled me to differentiate their learning accordingly. Using peer learning techniques, we shared the skills that the few had, with the many, to enable everyone on the team to cooperate more in their attack.

Following a short break for lunch, we opened up a “contraptions world“, a flat world which we use to showcase different minecraft-specific skills. Using this world, we discussed how to use an anvil to enhance things. We used the specific example of adding name-tags to mobs and animals. They also had some fun discovering that when you create a name-tag “Dinnerbone”, “Grumm” or “jeb_”, you can ….. well, I’ll let them tell you what these name-tags do!

After lunch, we returned to the building activity that we started on Thursday, adding features to the castle keep. Everyone knuckled down to it and silence fell in the barn as people measured, built, decorated and admired their constructions.

We then tried re-running the ‘storm the fortress’ world except this time, we swapped teams, reduced the number of people defending, increased the number of attackers and critically… changed to the stone castle keep to defend.

Mayhem ensued when we realised the attackers could just walk in the doors of the keep as there were no surrounding walls (yet) protecting it!!! Once the doors were removed and blocked up, the attack was much harder. We saw alternative approaches with the players learning from their previous experiences. We saw players crafting flaming arrows, but then realising that they were limited against a stone-built castle!

We saw tunnels being dug, raiding parties trying to warm in numbers, and single players running out of the castle to defend it out in the open. Lots of shouts and cries of despair as the attackers came so close to taking the treasured diamonds from the fort.

Once again, they learned just how hard it was to breach a fortress and some of the players even made the cognitive transition to understanding that you could simply punch stone blocks in minecraft and break your way in which was totally unrealistic and unique to Minecraft gameplay.

Making that cognitive leap is an advanced skill that allows the player to be immerive when they want to be but retaining an awareness that they are always playing a game.

As ever, we finished up with happy faces and groans when we had t0 turn off the server.

 

Extension exercises to try at home

Cardboard vs Lego fortress

Build two simple castles; one out of cardboard boxes and tape, one out of Lego.

  1. Try knocking over or breaching the castle walls of each build
  2. What are the differences between the builds? What gives each one strengths? Discuss the weaknesses of each construction material and how they might be used to develop attack strategies.
  3. How could you improve the build of each one? Discuss the attack strategy created above and think of a defence to counteract it. Can every fortress be breached?

Sandcastles at the beach

Build a sandcastle fortress with a difference. Try and recreate your Minecraft castle complete with a keep, stables, barracks, village houses, a marketplace and strong outer walls to defend it all. Be creative and use the building material to make unique features that you can’t build in Minecraft… Dribble turrets with wet sand, rounded sandcastles etc…

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