Skeleton horses and killer bunnies may not be traditional learning tools but Te Papa’s new mod for Minecraft is using them to teach important lessons about earthquake safety.
Te Papa and the Earthquake Commission (EQC) are hoping to shake up how kids learn about earthquakes by developing a new Minecraft mod called ShakerMod.
Short for ‘modification’, a mod is a computer program that changes Minecraft’s game content from what it originally was. Most add content to the game to alter gameplay, change the creative feel, or give the player more options in how they interact with the Minecraft world.
In ShakerMod, kids fix and fasten objects, then simulate earthquakes at different magnitudes. When the quakes are triggered, players see and hear the shaking, and watch as objects smash or survive depending on their earthquake-proofing skills. Players can also see how different Minecraft creatures fare in their quake.
Having a blast
The game can be played at Te Papa as part of its earthquake education programme, Earthquake Encounters, or downloaded to play at home or at school (as long as you already have the Minecraft game installed).
Te Papa’s Head of Learning Innovation, Miri Young, says ShakerMod has been tested with around 100 school children and their teachers throughout its development and their feedback has been instrumental in improvements to the mod.
“We’ve involved kids during the development of the ShakerMod and their input has been key. Being able to create earthquakes and test out how smash-proof their Fixing and Fastening has been a big hit. They’re having a blast and learning, too, which is the ultimate combination.”
She adds that reactions from kids playing the ShakerMod have been really positive with comments like: “it’s just awesome, and “it was really cool how everything not held down fell over and smashed.”
Fun learning experience
“Educating the next generations of New Zealanders around natural disaster awareness and preparedness is a vital step towards a safer and more resilient New Zealand,” says EQC General Manager Resilience, Dr Hugh Cowan. “That’s why our partnership with Te Papa, and the launch of the Earthquake Encounters programme, is so important
“Having ShakerMod available for free download means this fun learning experience will be available to thousands of New Zealanders.”
ShakerMod has been created by game developers, earthquake experts and educators, and is the culmination of months of work. The team included Dr Hazel Bradshaw, who has a PhD Human Interface Technology specialising in game design practise and Dunedin brothers Malcolm and Chris Geddes, who created one of the world’s largest Minecraft mods known as Pixelmon.
Beyond museum’s walls
The full Earthquake Encounters learning programme for primary school students (Years 3-8) is a two-hour, educator-led session in and around Te Papa. EQC is a founding partner of Te Papa and for the past 12 years the two have worked together to educate students and teachers about earthquakes. The next step is the redevelopment of the Awesome Forces natural history space
“People being able to access one of our learning activities in their own home or school, at their leisure, is a great example of how Te Papa is using technology to reach learners beyond the walls of the museum,” added Young.
For more about ShakerMod and how to download it, go to bit.ly/shakermod