This post is part of an ongoing series about how to get kids engaged in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.  In this post, we look the popular computer game, Minecraft, and talk about how we can use this game to instill a passion for science.

Released in 2009, Minecraft is the ultimate sandbox game.  The game has two modes, survival and creative.  Interestingly, neither mode has levels to master or points to collect.  In the creative mode, players can craft and explore an endless 3D world.  In the survival mode, players gather resources to feed and defend themselves.  They protect their creations from mobs of Zombies, Creepers, and Endermen. Because the game doesn’t come with instructions and there aren’t really any rules, the players gets to choose what to build in order to safeguard their world from the monsters.  Like Lego building blocks, Minecraft has endless possibilities and inspires creative solutions.  The game is highly successful and has a loyal fan base.  Children start playing the game and continue for years.

What are the secrets behind Minecraft’s success, particularly with kids? A large part of Minecraft’s appeal and continued popularity is because players get to choose what to build and how to interact with their world.  One of the cool features of the game is that players can make their own modifications. This feature inspires and encourages kids to learn how to code, which is a useful skill for future work in the STEM fields.  As children learn more, they implement their new knowledge to create novel types of housing, machines, tools, weapons, etc. The game never stagnates!

Both Minecraft and the  are ever changing and thrive on ingenuity. But why isn’t science as fascinating as Minecraft to kids? Can we use Minecraft to captivate children and teach them how fun participating in the STEM fields can be?  Interestingly, lots of scientific principles are already part of the game!  In addition to learning to code, children also can learn about ecology, physics, biology, and chemistry while playing Minecraft.  Kids learn about ecology because the landscape has various biomes that produce different resources.  Resources such as trees and animals have to be managed in order to avoid a “tragedy of the commons”. Players use chemistry and physics to turn these resources into different, more complex items.  For example, they can combine different resources by cooking to make new foods.  After adding some modifications, they can experiment by mixing different purified elements to see what new substances they can make. Players can also build circuits to run their machines and even make their own generators. Kids are already practicing scientists and researchers in the game!

Like Minecraft, video storytelling is a great way to inspire, teach, and prompt participation. Here at Motionbirth, we’re committed to creating exceptional animated narratives that fascinate and engage viewers while teaching them about scientific research. We want viewers of all ages to be inspired by what they see and motivated to both participate in and support research.