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Grade 1 students re-create historic Airdrie using Minecraft

During a regular board meeting on Oct. 7, the Rocky View Schools (RVS) Board of Trustees heard a presentation from a Grade 1 classroom at A.E. Bowers Elementary School that had re-created an historic rendition of Airdrie using the popular video game Minecraft.
A Grade 1 classroom at A.E. Bowers Elementary School in Airdrie has recreated the city as it would have been in 1910 using the popular video game Minecraft.

During a regular board meeting on Oct. 7, the Rocky View Schools (RVS) Board of Trustees heard a presentation from the teacher of a Grade 1 class at A.E. Bowers Elementary School that had re-created an historic rendition of Airdrie using the popular video game Minecraft.

The “sandbox” style video game provides its users both gameplay and creative control as they work toward tasks and goals within the game.

According to Grade 1 teacher Cheryl Procee, the game afforded her students a virtual space to re-create Airdrie as it would have appeared in 1910.

“With this project, we covered many outcomes in social studies, we looked at how the past affects the future, community involvement, and mapping,” she said. “We explored math through measurement, 3D and 2D shapes, as well as counting.”

She added students employed social studies skills, mathematics, science, group work, problem-solving, and technology and coding during gameplay.

“In science, we looked at planning as well as building things,” she said.

The project was a key element of the student’s social studies curriculum during the 2020-21 school year, when they learned how they are able to connect to the world around them, with a particular focus on their local community.

“In this project, students learned how Airdrie has changed over time, what makes their community thrive, and how they can actively engage with their community,” she said.

Procee added the students met with Mayor Peter Brown to discuss how Airdrie has changed over time, how they might engage positively with the community, and how groups help one another and make decisions.

Both Brown and Laurie Harvey, the curator at the Nose Creek Valley Museum, were instrumental in providing the classroom with information and photographs about historic Airdrie.

“Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, we weren’t able to go into the [museum] and have that knowledge-building session that we would typically like to do,” Procee said. “I was able to connect with [Harvey] after hours and go through the building.

“I took a whole bunch of pictures that I could bring back for the students and we did a little video tour.”

She added she also worked with Harvey to ensure the project was historically accurate and the arrangements of the buildings within the video game were correct and in tune with the layout of the city in the early 1900s.

After the presentation, Ward 3 Trustee Melyssa Bowen said as a parent, she has witnessed firsthand how engaging Minecraft can be in facilitating learning.

“My [kids] like to go in and build their own little town together, so I love that you’ve re-created Airdrie in 1910,” she said. “Like going to Heritage Park, it feels like you’ve built a virtual Airdrie park and that is just really cool to get to see.”

She added that many parents spend time with their children at home learning the game by playing with them, so bringing that into a classroom environment is “really exciting.”

According to Procee, as a Grade 1 teacher, she often hears students talk about Minecraft and decided to implement it into the curriculum.

She added that she wanted to make the gameplay meaningful to her students, so sat down to determine what logistics were involved.

“That was the first time using [Minecraft] in that setting, so there was definitely a lot of me sitting down and using all the tricks and tools,” she said.

Procee said her students taught her to make sure there was a foundation in place that would provide them a meaningful opportunity to hit goals within the gameplay. 

According to Ward 6 trustee and board chair Fiona Gilbert, in place of a trip to the museum, it is “amazing” how technology can make learning come alive in the classroom.

“Thank you for helping us understand the learning that you did way back in Grade 1 and the partnership with the City of Airdrie as well, for continuing to make our learning visible out in our community,” Gilbert said.

“Thank you for taking the time to help us understand Minecraft and how it can connect to science, social studies, math, and all those pieces of your learning.”

Carmen Cundy,  

Follow me on Twitter @carmenrcundy  

Carmen Cundy

About the Author: Carmen Cundy

Carmen Cundy joined the Airdrie Today team in March 2021.
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