Heritage Minecraft a hit with schools

With the new Aotearoa History curriculum due to start this year, there are plenty of opportunities to find creative ways to introduce New Zealand history to students. Dunedin’s Anthony Breese is using the popular Minecraft game to introduce Dunedin students to heritage buildings.

A child with her back to the camera plays Minecraft on a laptop.
Creating heritage buildings in Minecraft. Photo: Anthony Breeseexpand/collapse

In a recent project with Musselburgh School, Anthony, a registered primary teacher who now works for Cyclone PLD team, helped students develop a Minecraft world based on the topography of Dunedin. He was supported by Mike Brown from Cyclone, who builds the worlds.

“The students created the city’s historic buildings using virtual 3D Minecraft building blocks. Part of the process was to research the buildings’ histories,” says Anthony. “They had to find out the building materials used, who built it, and if there is a Māori connection to the site.”

Anthony’s partner Alison is apart-time Heritage Assessment Advisor for the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Otago/Southland Office. “Our office has been supplying reports on heritage listed places to the project,” says Alison. “The reports describe a building’s significance, materials, style of architecture and social history. It has been exciting to see the children using our research for their Minecraft projects.”

Sarah Gallagher, Acting Area Manager of Otago Southland sees this type of community heritage education as vital. “When we learn about our historic places and landscapes it helps us to care about and identify with them. This is important in the creation of our identity as citizens of Aotearoa New Zealand,” she says.

Anthony has also been educating teachers. A recent popular workshop shared with over 80 educators how students can use Minecraft to display their research and inquiry in the New Zealand Histories curriculum.

In the future, Anthony hopes to bring more schools on board and expand the project to Ōamaru and Invercargill.

Rosemary Baird