Saturday, 9 June 2012

Minecraft, a mine of information!

I recently read a fantastic post which is now living here about the diverse and unexpected things someone's daughter had learnt from Minecraft. Sprout, 6, has loved Minecraft for a couple of months now, and, although I don't usually analyse things to see what he's learning from them, he's been taken off on so many interesting tangents by this game I thought it might be fun to put them here for posterity.

He's looked at different sorts of mines, what can be mined, whether you can really mine with a pickaxe, whether you could dig right through the earth to the other side, whether we could mine in our back garden (nope, but he is digging a fair sized hole and has found plenty of pottery. And worms.), what the earth in our garden is (clay, which we're going to try and turn into a pot at some point!), and how you turn ore into metal. Our closest gold mine is a few hours away, but he's very keen to go so we're organising that at the moment. We found an estimate that all the gold ever mined in the whole world would fit into a cube 60'x60'x60'! Luckily we're a bit closer to some coal mines so we'll be going to Snibston Colliery in the next few weeks too.

Whether it's a real thing, what it stands for, and what's it's used for.

Whether pickaxes are real, how you would make one, and if he can see one being made (still working on this!). What is made in a forge, and whether tools can be weapons.

Whether diamond, lapis lazuli and obsidian exist in real life, where they're mined, and what diamond has in common with coal. We found out about the Golden Jubilee Diamond (below), and talked about the ethics of the diamond trade. 

He’s looking forward to visiting the Lapworth Museum of Geology in a couple of weeks to have some hands-on experience with rocks and minerals too.

Different woods and types of tree, what can be made from wood, whether wood floats, and how big trees could grow (We watched a video of me at General Sherman as a kid!). We listened to this lots and went out conifer spotting.

Whether they are natural or man made, and whether they always have water in them. We visited Flushed with Pride and played the lovely Gong Farmer game.
Pixel Art
We found out how to download the right files and use free programs to edit Minecraft texture packs, and used this site to make editing skins a piece of cake. Sprout's favourite skin that he's made has a creeper for a stomach, and he's in the process of creating a texture pack where TNT looks like cake so that he can make a Russian Roulette cake house maze.

Etiquette, and how even though it's a game these are real people he's playing with (this was actually a bigger jump than we'd expected)

More of the above. Moving from games where it's just Sprout and the computer, it was a big jump to understand that in this case real people had spent time putting together the pixels he could see on servers. We got him a server and signed Gruff up for an account, and the two of them have spent lots of time now playing side by side on separate PCs on the same server, and he's had a couple of friends over to do the same; He now has a much clearer understanding of the 'realness' of other people he can't see on a server. (Plus Gruff has made some very cool buildings!)

What animals people keep for food and/or pets, and which meats come from which animals. How animals breed and whether baby animals drink milk from their mummies. Whether zebras are just stripy horses. How you get leather and whether it was ever really used to make armour.

What different types there are and why.

How they're made and why they erupt. We played more of The Day The Earth Shook game that they'd both played tons a couple of months ago, and talked about why we don't have volcanoes here and only rarely have tiny little earthquakes, and what other things we might need an emergency preparedness kit for.

Computer technology
Including IP addresses, firewalls, servers, programming, and broadband speed.

Situations where it may and may not be ok, and who it might affect.

And by extension, other mythical creatures and Lord of the Rings, which then lead to Lego. (As most things do sooner or later!)

Video capture programs, YouTube, editing, and how much money you can make from having a YouTube channel.

And whether they really need darkness to grow.

Whether they're a real thing, and what different types there are.

Sprout asks a lot about either what words say on signs, or on chat, or on his mods list, or how to spell words to type in commands or write his own signs. He asked me how to spell 'Hotel' the other day, and I couldn't see him typing it anywhere, but when he panned out a couple of minutes later, there it was: HOTEL, built in blocks on top of his new hotel building. Brilliant!

I'm sure there's more, but this is what springs to mind so far. As always, I couldn't have known everywhere this interest would take him, and I'm so excited at the enjoyment he's getting from this, his current passion.


  1. Thank you for explaining it to me!

    DS has recently spent a deal of time talking some much younger children through Minecraft, and its good to know that the gentleness that I witnessed in teens who were then almost twice his age who talked him through Runescape is also evidenced in the next generation!

    1. Ah that's so lovely! Sprout has had a couple of very patient older home ed kids play Minecraft with him too, it was really nice to watch :)

  2. I just love your write up!! amazing content ,, keep up the good work!

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  4. There was a slight lyrics amendment for singability, so I've removed my previous post.

    Do you sing, at your house?

    Might your family be interested in singing this and putting it on YouTube? (or facebook, or send it to me… ;-))

    Raghu Bharadwaj just wrote something and is quite excited about it, but can't sing, he says.

    I've asked Adam Daniel and his friend Huxley, in England; I've asked Alex Polikowsky to check with her kids, and will ask a few others, too, hoping there will be more than one.

    If they do want to do it, they could say Raghu in New Jersey if they don't want to say "Bharadwaj", or maybe make a card they could hold up naming the author. :-)

    12 days of Minecrafting Christmas by Raghu

    On the first day of Christmas my friend Steve gave to me
    a pig in an apple tree.
    2 nether portals
    3 farmers farming
    4 skeletons shooting
    5 golden blocks
    6 creepers creeping
    7 squids a swimming
    8 zombies eating
    9 slimes a splotching
    10 Gollums guarding
    11 blazes blazing
    12 gamers mining

    Thanks for considering this, and even if you don't want to record it, you might enjoy singing it, or just reading it. :-)

    1. Ha, I love it! I'll ask them in the morning :)