“Road to Sustain”: Learning about biodiversity through Minecraft Educational games

23 March 2024


“Road to Sustain”: Learning about biodiversity through Minecraft Educational games

Reported by Dr. Jinying Xu, Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow at Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge and Cambridge Zero Darwin College David MacKay Research Associate

Dr Jinying Xu organised an event for the Cambridge Festival that allowed children and young adults to explore how biodiversity is protected in road infrastructure through the vehicle of Minecraft.

The event, entitled “Road to Sustain”, provided a series of Minecraft Education games designed to help kids and young adults to explore how biodiversity is protected by ecologists in sustainable road infrastructure development projects. More than fifty children came along with their families and participated in this educational and entertaining gaming event.

There were three different games provided in parallel, each with one version for children below the age of 11 and another for those aged 11+. Six instructors were recruited and trained to guide participants through the game. They started by introducing the background, learning objectives, guiding ideas and questions, and performance expectations, followed by explaining the lesson structure and providing guidance for the game. Under the supervision and guidance of an instructor, a participating child would start the game, explore, find animals, plants, and fungi in a specific project setting as well as learning about wildlife species.

The aim was to create a workbook with photos and notes of the wildlife they found in the game. In some games, they were asked to build a new habitat for the animals, in others, they needed to create a biodiverse area, before finishing the road construction project. Participants also had the opportunity to learn about different professionals involved in the project, such as ecologists, biodiversity officers, plant operators, traffic officers and site engineers. Finally, the participants were asked to take a quiz on the knowledge they gained from the games and were given animal stickers as prizes.

The event has received much interest from children and adults alike, with six gaming stations running in parallel, and a total of fifty-five participants playing the game. Some of the children who participated said that they wanted to become ecologists in the future and others wanted to become engineers, while some were more interested the technology aspects of the game.

The event also raised the profile of an edu-gaming approach for some parents, who noted the benefits of this new education format that embeds science and engineering knowledge in educational video games.

Interested readers can also access the games developed by National Highways through BlockBuilders.

Dr Jinying XU

Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge