Exploring the molecular basis of diabetes with Minecraft

Exploring the use of the computer game Minecraft in engaging children with learning about diabetes.

Conditions such as diabetes can be difficult to understand, particularly for children and especially with the molecular complexities of the human body not available for exploration. Combining existing projects which successfully use Minecraft to teach concepts of sciences, biochemistry and chemistry, ‘Exploring the molecular basis of diabetes with Minecraft’ is funded by the Royal Society of Chemistry to develop Minecraft resources to support and encourage children to explore and understand this condition.

Minecraft is a hugely popular computer game which allows children to visualise and explore concepts through building with an unlimited number of virtual blocks with a wide range of textures and properties; it has demonstrable potential for learning and engagement with many educators around the world making use of its format to teach and engage children across various subjects. Children feel a sense of ownership through working in a medium with which they are often very familiar.

Molecular structures of the human body are introduced through a Minecraft build taking children through the body in decreasing scales, from whole body through organs to cellular processes. This project is piloting the build and associated structured learning session with 60 children from under-represented groups in six primary and secondary schools around the UK, through hands-on outreach sessions. Children who don’t usually have access to educational opportunities will thus be able to explore an aspect of chemical sciences, beyond the curriculum, in a novel, enjoyable and effective way. We will also recruit a chemistry student/students to join the project and create the Minecraft build, training them in outreach and engagement techniques. The efficacy of the sessions is being evaluated via a mixed methods approach.

For more information, please contact us (sciencehunters@uwe.ac.uk).