A research and engagement scheme which uses the computer game Minecraft to engage children with science.
Science Hunters is an overarching scheme, within which various projects use the Science Hunters approach to engage children of all ages with Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) using the popular computer game Minecraft. They learn about STEM concepts and research and try out some hands-on demonstrations before building their own related creations in the game.
Minecraft is an incredibly popular game, especially with children. It is an effective science communication tool, as it has many analogies to real-world processes which aid in explaining scientific concepts, and gives children a sense of ownership and expertise. Evaluations undertaken by the Science Hunters team indicate that use of Minecraft both attracts children who might not otherwise have engaged with science learning, and successfully improves scientific knowledge and understanding after participating in sessions.
The Science Hunters approach follows a constructivist pedagogy, utilising anchored instruction and constructionism. Science Hunters has a ‘Widening Participation’ focus, reaching children from under-represented groups and with a particularly strong record of working with children with Special Educational Needs, Looked After Children, and children from low participation neighbourhoods and eligible for Pupil Premium. Activities have been delivered in schools, at public events and in regular Minecraft Clubs for children from specific groups, in-person and remotely.
The scheme is managed by SCU Senior Research Fellow, Dr Laura Hobbs, with collaboration between the SCU and Lancaster University, alongside other organisations interested in using Minecraft as a learning tool to explore the game’s efficacy in science communication.
Science Hunters was initiated at Lancaster University in 2014 by Professor Carly Stevens, expanded to joint delivery with the Science Communication Unit in 2018 and has been fully based at UWE Bristol since 2022 (please see ‘History of Science Hunters’ for further information).
UWE Bristol-led Science Hunters projects include:
History of Science Hunters
Science Hunters began as a small Widening Participation outreach project in Lancaster Environment Centre, engaging children with environmental science research. By 2020, it had grown to be one of the largest such projects in the UK, and to date has reached more than 20,000 children in schools, at public events and through our Minecraft Clubs and expanding to operate collaboratively with the Science Communication Unit at UWE Bristol and work with the Universities of Aberdeen, Newcastle, Hull and Loughborough as well as many other external partner organisations.
As of 2022, Science Hunters is now based in the Science Communication Unit, UWE Bristol. More information about our project design, approach, practice and research can be found in the articles below.
- An inclusive approach to teaching science using Minecraft (PDF)
- Science learning through Minecraft
- Using Minecraft to engage children with science at public events
- Teaching science concepts using Minecraft
- Exploring geosciences with Minecraft (p 25) (PDF)
- Environmental education and engagement (p 20) (PDF)
- Science appeal through Minecraft for students with autism
- Exploring coral reef conservation in Minecraft
- Elements of construction - the periodic table in Minecraft (p 21)
- Collaborative development of school Minecraft resources
- Shared special interest play: Minecraft Club for children with Special Educational Needs
- Using Minecraft modes in teaching
- Science fun for children with SEND: Engaging through computer games (2017)
- Science Hunters - using Minecraft as an engagement tool (2017)
- Making STEM for everyone: Reaching under-served audiences (2018)
- “So we can’t bring a volcano into the classroom…” Communicating geosciences through digital media (2019)
- Communicating STEM through Minecraft (2019)
- Exploring space using Minecraft (2020)
- Exploring engineering solutions to environmental hazards through Minecraft (2022)
- Inclusive exploration of sustainable goals and solutions through Minecraft (2022) - Winner of an International Sustainable Ecological Engineering Design for Society (SEEDS) Chair’s Award (PDF)
Practitioner guides and resources
- Engaging children with STEM using Minecraft
- Engagement through Minecraft: Available editions. A guide for practitioners
- Investing in the Future of Science: Science Hunters activities
- Building to Break Barriers activity resources