Bloxels for 4th graders–game design thinking

Design (Thinking) Process

[Taught: 2017-18 school year to the present]

Using an app-based game-creation platform called Bloxels, I tasked 4th graders with making the most fun game they could–for an audience of their classmates, the wider school community, and anyone playing in the the Bloxels Arcade.(1)

Students worked in small groups, framing their efforts with design thinking, a highly human-centered process that emphasizes imagining (or empathizing with) users’ experiences, creative problem-solving, and swift iteration. Within each group, students took primary responsibility for one of three roles: Character Designer, Layout Designer, or Story & Theme Designer.

(1) The games students shared to the Bloxels Arcade contained no personally identifying information.

“What Is an American”? 3D-printed monuments of unsung heroes from the American Revolution

3D monument models atop a library bookshelf

During the 2018-19 school year, The Town School’s the 4th-grade faculty significantly reworked their Social Studies curriculum. The result was a year-long consideration of the question, “What is an American?”

For their culminating project, 4th-graders researched lesser-known participants in the American Revolutionary War–especially enslaved Africans, Black freemen, First Peoples, and women. Then, in their Technology class, using Tinkercad and working in small groups, students designed monuments to commemorate the “heroes” they had researched.

Once 3D-printed, we placed the monuments on wooden bases (which were cut and painted by the school’s Facilities Department). Affixed to the front of the bases were QR codes, which linked to Google Docs that contained information (composed in 4th-grade Writing class) on the historical figures’ wartime contributions.

The final product was displayed in the school’s library for all visitors to see and interact with.

Minecraft Club – From Treehouses to Statues of Nonexistent Heroes

Mapped-out Minecraft world overhead

During the 2018-19 school year, The Town School’s Lower School Science teacher and I ran a Minecraft Club for 1st-4th graders. The Club met before school once a week for just 30 minutes, with each grade attending in 5-7-week blocks. Because of this schedule, we had to come up with projects that participants could work on in small groups and in short, spaced-out bursts. No experience with Minecraft: Education Edition was required to join the club, and the variety of expertise turned out to be a real boon, as students learned an impressive amount from one another in a short amount of time.

4th-grade members of the Minecraft Club were challenged to create a series of treehouses (or structures whose foundations were trees)–one that was a library, one that was for players to have snacks, and one designated a play/chill area. We also had a group for constructing outdoor features (e.g. entrances, exits, and connecting walkways) and another responsible for showing school pride.

3rd graders were challenged to create a statue for a hero who never existed. Small groups started with their ideas–both textual and design-related–on paper for the first couple of sessions and then began building (and writing signs and books) in Minecraft.

2nd-grade members of the club were tasked with building farms:

1st-graders, most of which were new to Minecraft, built giant versions of their initials, connecting them to the initials of other members of their small group: