Friday, March 31, 2017

World Water Day and Skype

Our Skype passport is filling up quickly!  As of today, we have traveled over 30,000 miles throughout the year.  We've traveled to far away countries, connected with animal experts, and learned about global problems.  Throughout these connections, one common thread was weaved throughout- the idea that we are ALL connected and that we can work together to solve global problems.  Most recently, we celebrated World Water Day by connecting with Ken Surritte, the founder of Water is Life.

I contacted Water is Life on Twitter and asked if they would have someone who would be willing to connect with my students.  I received a quick reply that Ken would be happy to talk with us.  Little did I know that Ken was the founder!

Ken spoke with our students about the valuable work that his company does in an effort to bring clean water to people throughout the world.  Ken spent time explaining not only the water crisis, but also telling students how they are working to solve it.  He featured their newest product, a straw, that can filter water for an individual for up to a year!   

Ken was a dynamic and passionate speaker.  He truly wanted to connect with my class and was open to answering their many questions.  Skype made all of this possible and I can't imagine my classroom without the ability to connect with others throughout the world!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Minecraft Construction: Cultural Influences

Our third lesson focuses on the idea of culture and specifically aims to answer two questions:

  1. How are civilizations remembered?  
  2. How does culture impact and define a civilization?

This lesson accompanies a writing unit called Folk Literature.  During the writing unit, students examine folk literature pieces from all over the world and identify key elements within the stories.  For their performance task, students are asked to create a folk literature story about their civilization.  Students published this on Scholastic's Write With Writers website.
This assignment was very interactive and group-dependent because all group members must discuss the various stories that they are creating so that they all mesh together to create a picture of their civilization and their culture.

After completing the writing, students, within their groups, choose one student-written folk literature story to focus the remainder of their construction in Minecraft for this lesson.

During this lesson, students add cultural elements to their previously created city centers.  Many of these cultural elements correlate with the folk literature pieces.  Students are asked to create a cultural center that will host events for their civilization.  In preparation for building, students research ancient architectural design elements and incorporate at least one element into their structure.

Students create a sketch of their cultural center using OneNote and their Surface 3, and share it with their group members.

Their second task is to clear the area for their cultural center.  At this point, groups should identify the purpose of the cultural center (i.e. what events will be held) and should have a central focus for the space.  They are reminded to expand their wall to accommodate their new structure.

Third, students are asked to create a unique cultural feature for their city center.  This could be a statue, a piece of art, or a fountain that represents an element of their culture.

Many students erected statues in honor of their folk literature hero and had their cultural center depict an event that they described in their narratives.

Students had to present their unique feature, cultural center, and depicted a holiday that is celebrated by their people.  The holiday presentation included decor, practices, and descriptions.  We had students dance, carry "torches", and sing songs in honor of their folk literature heroes.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Minecraft Construction: City Center

During their second lesson in Minecraft, students are asked to construct a city center based off of the city centers that we study when we explore Gilgamesh the Hero and ancient Mesopotamia.  Students work together to identify key elements that are needed for a city-center.  Groups used the following questions to guide their discussion and design:

Turning Your Farming Community into a City-State
After clearing land in your biome, you were able to develop the beginnings of your city-state. These farming settlements provide the food needed for your community grow. Improvements in farming techniques and methods allow for a division of labor. These new jobs and laborers are the fabric builders of your great city state. Analyzing this step in history requires you to document the efforts of these times. The question below will direct you in this endeavor.
Farming Community
            Describe the set-up of your farming community.
  • What is the name of the river that it was built on?
  • How did you change the physical features of your biome to suit your needs?
  • What are the roles of people in your community? 
  • Provide a general description of the location and dwellings.

Transition to a City Center
1. How will your farming communities be incorporated into your city center?
2. How will your city center design support the safety and development of your civilization?

Following the discussion, the Digital Maker constructs their city-center using their discussion to guide his/her building.  They are asked to focus on security and growth as they build. 

City Center Elements:
  1. barrier
  2. living quarters
  3. water source
  4. docks
  5. palace
  6. unique feature
Throughout the process, students documented their progress by taking pictures of their creations.  They also provided a written rationale to support their decisions and construction.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Minecraft Construction: Settlement and City Center

After lesson one, students were so excited to dive deeper into our module and work with Minecraft again.  During week 2 of our module, our students focused on the transition from hunters/gatherers to settlement and developing farming settlements.  As a group, students worked through an article, discussed a background story for their group, and made decisions within Minecraft that would allow them to choose a settlement point.  During individual time, the writer, manager, presenter, and liaison all worked on varying tasks associated with settlement.

Digital Maker:
Our study of ancient river valley civilizations led each group to decide to settle near a body of water.  After students found a suitable location, they began the tasks for the week.  The Digital Makers were charged with the task of documenting the raw biome.  By adding a camera and portfolio, students were able to take photos of the raw settlement land before making any changes.  The photographs and documentation will hopefully help them visualize the progression of their civilizations as we move through time. They were instructed to take aerial photos, pictures of important land formations/features, pictures of possible settlement locations, and photos of waterways.   

Minecraft Tip:

Add a Camera
  1. Press 't'
  2. Type: /give @yourname camera
 Add a Portfolio
  1. Press 't'
  2. Type: /give @yourname portfolio
 Taking Pictures
  1. Put camera in right hand from the hot bar.
  2. Aim the +
  3. Right click to take a picture
  4. Pictures are automatically deposited into your portfolio.
Accessing Pictures in the Portfolio
  1. Put portfolio in right hand from the hot bar
  2. Right click to access the portfolio
  3. Add captions
 Exporting Pictures
  1. Press the 'export portfolio' option
  2. Choose a location to save your pictures and give your folder a name
  3. Select 'save'

Next, students began creating farming communities.  With Creative Mode 'on' and other group members able to assist, Digital Makers chose locations and began building their settlements.  Settlement requirements:
  1. Canals
  2. Crops
  3. Small living quarters
  4. More than one settlement (along a river)

Stay tuned for lesson 3!