Curro turns to Minecraft to enhance STEM learning

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Private education group Curro has upped the ante in the use of technology in education, claiming to be the first academic institution in SA to use video gaming to help build STEM skills.

The school says the game encourages collaboration, communication, critical thinking and coding skills among learners.

Yesterday, Curro announced it is using Minecraft: Education Edition as an e-sports arena, and for the past month, learners from age 9-14 have been taking part in the inaugural Curro Clash Minecraft Esport League, where teams have been competitively building pirate-themed items within the Minecraft world.

The school group has since established the Curro Clash Minecraft Esport League, with participation of 200 learners in 20 teams of 10 players across different Curro schools in SA.

The teams are tasked to each build a specific object (such as cannons, parrots, pirate ships and treasure chests – in keeping with the pirate theme of the arena) using the 3D building blocks from the Minecraft world, having 30 minutes to do so.

Sports Entertainment International is the exclusive broadcaster of this event, and has undertaken a significant technological challenge to bring this world first event to a broader audience for Curro Sports and Microsoft.

Finals for the top honours of the league are set for this weekend.

The move by Curro comes as a growing number of high schools and colleges globally are implementing their own on-campus e-sports programmes to capitalise on student interest and increase students’ engagement.

Minecraft: Education Edition is used in schools in more than 115 countries to facilitate STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning and to aid in the development of skills for the fourth industrial revolution, including problem-solving, creativity, team management and critical thinking.

Cindy van der Merwe, project manager: Curro Sport, and Angela Schaerer, technology business relationships manager at Curro, lead the team.

Schaerer notes: “During lockdown, e-sports became an amazing opportunity because learners couldn’t connect via traditional sports or clubs. The online world of Minecraft creates a perfect digital environment for learners to collaborate and play.”

Curro says it worked with Stephen Reid, senior customer engagement programme manager at Microsoft, who is a leader in the field of game-based learning and is responsible for creating the e-sports platform within Minecraft: Education Edition.

“Piloting this project for Microsoft has been a privilege, and to see the enthusiasm of both the learners and teachers towards this Minecraft competition has been inspiring,” states Schaerer.

“To experience how these players work together to build these incredibly detailed structures is remarkable,” she says.

The private school group recently launched its first online school, which will allow pupils to attend a virtual class in response to COVID-19.

Schools in SA re-opened recently after more than two months of national lockdown but some parents are still fearful their children may be infected with the deadly virus, and are opting for home schooling or online classes.

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