Rome wasn’t built in a day, but with Minecraft it could be
The different wings in a Roman villa. The various rooms in a Roman bath. The parts of an amphitheater. Students are often asked to memorize this kind of information. When I was in school, I made long lists and rewrote them often. But, instead, imagine if I could construct my own villa, baths, or amphitheater. I could build it literally from the ground up, thinking about the dimensions, labeling each part, truly making it my own. Then the information would really be in my long term memory. With Minecraft, this is possible.
What is Minecraft?
Minecraft is a world building video game in which players construct anything their heart desires using blocks in a 3-D world. It has been around for a decade and is not your typical video game. Players build a world for themselves from scratch, including clouds, buildings, and other parts of the natural environment. They can build alone or with peers in a communal world. The tools are also quite old-fashioned and thus appropriate for Latin class. Cloth is made on a loom; fire is started with flint and steel; metal tools are made on an anvil. It truly is wonderful when used heuristically.
Particularly during remote learning, Minecraft was an invaluable tool. Students were able to play and work collaboratively even though they were socially distanced. Without our excellent maker space and the communal space of the JAIC, Minecraft was the best way for students to do “hands-on” learning.
Why Minecraft is a great learning tool
The blocks are made of various materials—such as stone, wood, dirt, or ore—that the players mine or collect after they detonate explosives. The players can play by themselves or join with others in building a communal world. They build a world from scratch, including buildings, clouds, and other parts of the natural environment
Students study the gods and goddesses and then construct their own temple to their favorite deity. They have to include the appropriate symbols, build an altar for sacrifices, and decide whether their temple is Greek (open) style or Roman (front-door) style. And of course, their temple must have a decorated pediment.
We begin our villa project with the most important room of a Roman house: the atrium. This was the main room and also the most public. It is where clients would gather every morning to respectfully greet their patron. Students have to build a ianua, lararium, compluvium, impluvium, as well as other furniture.
Minecraft is also invaluable as a part of a research project. The eldest students are asked to research a particular Roman monument, such as the Pantheon, in depth and recreate it in the video game. They pour themselves into these assignments, including incredible detail. For example, the student who constructed the Pantheon not only did the famous ceiling, complete with coffered squares, but he counted how many drains are in the floor and even built the cloaca (sewer) to take away the rainwater that falls through the oculus.
Building your own Roman monument is a great learning experience. With Minecraft, you can build virtually, alone or with friends, and the only limit is your own imagination! The students immerse themselves in the world of ancient Rome. If you see your Latin student bent over their laptop or tablet, please, check out their projects! You will be amazed at what you find!
By: Giulia Fiorile, Latin teacher