Building a Civilization: Leveraging Microsoft Learning Tools

Social Studies- Research and Build a Civilization in Minecraft

Manitoba Curriculum

Step 1: What is a Civilization

Teaching the Grade 8 Social Studies curriculum in Manitoba is daunting (G8 At a Glance poster.qxp ( ) as it starts from the time of early mankind up to the Middle Ages. 

Previously, students were taught about several characteristics important to the development of civilizations. They were then placed into random groups to research and present facts about each characteristic. They were also taught about primary and secondary sources of information. 

Our teacher librarian worked resourcefully to find physical books and order some using our grant money from the Indigo Love of Reading Grant, related to each civilization. I also taught students how to use our provincially accessible Britannica resource, as well as World Book Online. Students researched and presented factual information from the Mayan empire up to the Middle Ages.

Often, group members did not get along, which taught students the concept of social resilience. I also taught them about how in every group there will be one person who does not do their job according to an economics principle I learned called "the free-rider" problem. 

The information they collected revolved around the elements of civilizations which included the following :

1) Stable Food Supply
2) Laws
3) Technologies
4) Social Structure 
5) Culture
6) Language and Communication
7) Systems of Government

Students were taught how to reference the information they found, both within their initial research and on their PowerPoint or Canva slides.

Referencing (1) by Sevak Singh on Scribd

Step 2: There is no "I" in team

After learning about a dozen different civilizations and presenting their information, students were then placed into a random group. You can enter students names and then spin the wheel in a random name generator. Make sure you have a pen and paper ready to jot down names to place in groups to create their own civilization. I love using this tool to help me make my decision as to who will be in what group. I term it the "wheel of certain death"- Wheel of Names | Random name picker. .

Using an inquiry based approach students worked in groups to create and answer questions about what they would want their civilization to look like and what they may want to see when building one. 

Many groups struggled with creating and answering their own questions, as they had differing ideas, some concepts of which were diametrically opposed to one another (I.e Monarchy vs. Democracy as a system of government). 

In order to begin they had to complete the first component mentioned above. They then had to create a visual map of what they wanted to build and decide who would build each feature. 

Students were given the option of using Minecraft For Education or creating a kingdom using Bristol board and colouring tools. 

Figure 1: Example of a collaborative Minecraft civilization project courtesy of Group TKGB

Step 3: Show Your World

After a month of building, students were then asked to present their worlds together in class. Each student was tasked with building their own sections, based on the seven pillars of their civilization. Since they were using Minecraft for Education this took quite a long period of time, as students measured areas and determined what they would add to explain each of the characteristics they were responsible for. Of course in many cases students were away, but I strongly encouraged students to share their world in a chat I created for each group so they could continue working even if another group member was away. After presenting their worlds they were required to complete a self evaluation to help me understand who completed their parts and who did not.

Build a Civilization Project by Sevak Singh