Minecraft and Scholastic Esports: How NASEF is Using Farmcraft to Empower Students

Oct 12, 2023

With over 200,000,000 sales across its lifetime, Minecraft is one of the most popular games of all time. Minecraft is an 8-bit 3D sandbox game with limitless potential for creation in the base version of the game, but even more so if one was to modify the game. This, along with its draw to younger players, has caused Minecraft to become a go to tool for educators to teach skills ranging from coding to farming.

NASEF has helped thousands of educators around the world leverage Minecraft for their classes and afterschool programs. For example, in an interview with MOREnet, Jon McCammon, a technical director at Hannibal School District in Missouri, detailed how he saw Minecraft being used to educate students. “The creativity that the students come up with, how to do all these different things, and then they're really deep diving into the mechanics of what Minecraft can do,” described McCammon. The students at Hannibal had been tasked with the creation of complex machines using redstone, a game mechanic that shares many principals with electrical circuits. Using Minecraft, the students were able to be taught, “why do we do robotics… It's because every time we're going to do it, there is going to be that anomaly.” The incentive of getting to play Minecraft also proved to be an effective motivator for kids in summer school to get their work done and pass.

On top of education, McCammon saw positive social interaction resulting from Minecraft being played by the students. McCammon stated that, “Minecraft spans all the students, you know, you're not going to see these four girls going over and playing Overwatch, they're not going to go and play Rocket League. But, it's amazing that the Rocket League players will come to Minecraft, the Overwatch players will come to Minecraft, you know, the Smash Brothers, everybody. All kids, I think, have this commonality between Minecraft.” McCannon also mentioned witnessing a female student that was new to the school create meaningful connections with her new classmates via Minecraft. 

McCammon then discussed how the same collaborative and strategic skills that one might need in football or any other sport are present in the esports students at his school. “It really does come down to that football team set up this way. The offense is this way, the defense is set up this way and we're looking for the weakness now that we know that these two, how they work together.” The students work together with each other and their coaches in every game to figure out the best strategy and then implement it. 

Four students from Hannibal High competed in NASEF’s Farmcraft 2023 and were featured on a livestream with industry professionals. The four girls submitted a top-notch video for one of the event challenges and caught NASEF’s attention, so they were invited to appear on the stream. 

Farmcraft is a mod for Minecraft in which the players (students around the world) face real world challenges when farming. For example, one student from Hannibal works in the school's greenhouse and faced a slug and snail breakout both in real life and in Farmcraft. In the game, players choose what biome they want to feed, then must identify what the market wants, plant the crop, nurture the crop, and protect the crop from pests and climate disaster. Once the crop is harvested the players must transport it to the market and sell it. Farmcraft creates a realistic and educational world for students to interact with, while having fun all at the same time. 

These are the real benefits of scholastic esports. Jon McCammon verbally paints a picture in this interview of a perfectly functioning esports ecosystem at his school and exactly what it does for his students. It provides them with a safe, fun, and engaging environment where they can learn important and advanced skills. Esports teaches the kids to work together as a team and develop comprehensive plans that they can execute in tandem. Most importantly, it brings kids of different interests together to connect, creating important and lasting friendships that bridge across age, gender, race, or ability.

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