July 13, 2017
By Kelli Gile, WVUSD Office of Community Resources
WALNUT, CA--The California Mission Project for fourth graders has stepped into the 21st century!
If you attended public schools in the golden state, you probably have memories of constructing a replica of a mission.
Students have long studied the 600-mile California Mission trail, which connects 21 missions from San Diego to Sonoma.
A common assignment is to build a model of one of the missions using cardboard, sugar cubes, balsa wood, or Styrofoam.
In several Walnut Valley elementary schools, the project evolved this year to include the integration of technology.
Using MinecraftEdu, the education version of the popular Minecraft game, students have been creating interactive, three-dimensional models of California missions.
Working with partners, students conducted research and created a virtual representation in the computer-generated world.
Technology coach Wendy Cadima introduced the project to classes at Evergreen and Westhoff elementary schools.
“The kids are so engaged when they’re doing Minecraft. It’s digital storytelling!” she said.
During a weekly lesson with teacher Sally Lee’s fourth grade class, the energy and excitement in the computer lab was palpable.
“They told me that they love Minecraft,” she said. “A lot of my students have a background in it, so they knew how to build.”
Within the simulated walls, students created rooms that existed in the actual missions including the church, kitchen, padre’s quarters, garden, fountain, and graveyard.
Cadima provided the students with fact cards detailing the features and dimensions for the end-of-year projects.
She also taught them how to teleport to different missions within the Minecraft world, use QR codes, and view aerial images on Google maps.
“We started with a blank world,” commented Sean Thorbjornsen, age 10.
The young architects used the tool bar feature to choose the building blocks, colors, and textures.
“That’s how we built the entire mission,” he added.
The children put personal touches on their projects by adding people, equipment, furnishings, decorations, livestock, and even planting fruits and vegetables.
“I never thought I’d be doing Minecraft at school!” said Troy Pisigan, age 9 who cleverly built an underground passage using the mechanical element redstone on his project.
“You can open and close the gate with it,” he added.
“It’s fun to build things I think in my mind,” said classmate Ryan Amoudi.
After the missions were complete, students recorded video walk-through tours of their projects.
“We had to put on headphones and talk into a microphone,” described Hana Bouidani, age 10.
Ianna Lin showcased the workshop, candle, and soap-making rooms in the Mission San Jose that was established in 1797.
“We put in a sink to test the soap,” she said during the voiceover.
Jacob Chen described the materials and build date during the tour of San Juan Bautista Mission located near San Francisco.
“The church was 188’ long, 72’ high, and 40’ wide, making it the largest of all the missions.”
Minecraft is sparking collaborative learning, critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity in the classroom.
“It allows students to experience what they are learning,” Cadima said.
“They’re are thinking and designing. They’ll never forget it!”
Evergreen fourth grade students are experiencing 21st century learning using MinecraftEdu to construct mission projects. Shown with technology coach Wendy Cadima.