Students all around the world can now use Minecraft to explore and learn about Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific Northwest through cultural and traditional experiences.
In partnership with Microsoft Canada, kwikwəƛə̓m (Kwikwetlem) First Nation, School District 43 (SD43) Indigenous Education and SD43 STEAM launched "Minecraft Education: Pacific Northwest Coast Experience" earlier this month.
It's set to allow students to travel back in time to a coastal community as inhabitants are preparing for winter, a news release stated.
Microsoft Canada noted the in-game world is aiming to increase awareness of coastal peoples' unique perspectives and artistry by having students travel to assist a community to prepare for winter through sustainable harvesting practices.
Students will gather cedar bark and planks as well as pulling salmon from the gillnets so that community continues to thrive as it has for generations.
"Once students have learned these important skills from elders and knowledge keepers, they may choose to construct a new sustainable village up the coast," the release added.
The Minecraft world will allow players to develop an understanding of indigenous traditional ecological knowledge, focusing on the interconnectedness of all living and non-living things, it said.
"Goals in SD43 include incorporating Indigenous principles and STEAM across the curriculum and this integrated project with Kwikwetlem First Nation and Microsoft offers an incredible experience for students," said SD 43 Superintendent Patricia Gartland.
"Exploring a Minecraft world while hunting, fishing, and building within an immersive virtual Pacific Northwest Indigenous community is a fantastic way to learn through 'doing.' For many students, gaming greatly increases engagement in learning."
Minecraft Education is a game-based platform that inspires learning through play.
The launch has introduced four educational activities for students to explore:
- Cedar: The Tree of Life – Learn the tree of life story, discover why Cedar is revered and the protocols for thanking the tree for its invaluable gifts. After giving thanks, students can sustainably harvest bark and enough planks to craft a bentwood box.
- Salmon Gillnetting and Smokehouse – Understand the importance of salmon, learn about the First Salmon ceremony and how the gillnet provides a sustainable harvest.
- Plants – Dig camas and gather salmonberries, learning the importance of taking not what you can, but what you need, leaving berries for the birds and bears and ensuring successful camas crops in the future.
- Culminating Build – After completing the harvest tasks and learning from knowledge keepers you meet on your journey, take what you have learned and build your own village up the coast.
Educators around the world can access the Pacific Northwest Coast Experience — containing teaching guides, technical guides and videos — so students can learn through the lens of the Pacific Northwest Peoples.
"SD43 is proud to be at the forefront of educational innovation," SD43 Board of Education Chair Michael Thomas added.
"It has been a great honour to work with the Kwikwetlem First Nation to create this immersive Minecraft world that teaches young people about the rich culture and traditions of Coastal First Nations people."
"Together with Microsoft, we've built a truly fun and creative learning tool for students to experience and learn with. We are thankful to our Indigenous Education and SD43 STEAM teachers for their hard work on this project."