Microsoft launches Minecraft worlds to teach UK students about renewable energy

This week, the two organisations have launched a duo of Minecraft ‘worlds’ that can be accessed in schools through Minecraft’s Education platform. Each world comes with its own supporting lesson plan and teaching materials.

The first world is called the Offshore Wind Power Challenge and is aimed at Key Stage 3 students (typically those aged 11 to 14). It enables players to design and build their own offshore wind farm to power a coastal village, based on the Rampion array off the coast of Sussex.

Players will only succeed if the wind farm passes the consenting process and has enough capacity. They will also need to minimise their impact on nature and balance the construction and operation of the wind farm with the needs of fishing boats and other businesses.

The second world is based on Windsor Great Park, a 4,500-acre ecological site spanning parts of Surrey and Berkshire. Players will learn what it would be like to be a conservation apprentice at this site, completing a series of quests on water management, food chains and environmental management. This world is aimed at Key Stage 2 students (typically those aged seven to 11).

Microsoft UK and the Crown Estate hope the worlds will be an effective environmental education platform, given how “immersive” they are and how popular Minecraft is. It is the best-selling game of all time and around 140 million people globally play at least once a month.

Teacher Tracy Urch, who gave lessons in Peacehaven, Sussex, said:  “Minecraft is a great engaging tool to grab young people’s attention; as soon as we mentioned Minecraft to the students, their eyes lit up.”

“Sustainability as a subject can be made to seem difficult but it’s all about breaking it down for young people and making it accessible. For students to effectively engage in a Minecraft world requires logic, interaction, problem solving and decision, so it’s a really useful way to use technology and learn about the topic.”

“This is a fabulous opportunity to team up with Microsoft and share worlds with young people to gain insights and deepen their understanding of the urgent and complex challenges of climate change and nature protection,” said The Crown Estate’s executive director of purpose, stakeholder and sustainability Judith Everett.

The Crown Estate manages the seabed and much of the coastline around England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It also has a £16bn portfolio of land holdings.

Everett added: “One of our key roles is to manage the demands of today, whilst protecting the natural environment for the long-term. By recreating these worlds in Minecraft, we are giving students and teachers a safe and fun way to experience some of the opportunities and challenges involved in managing the transition to net-zero and protecting our natural habitats.

“We hope this will help to inspire the next generation to develop their skills and passion in these areas and introduce some of the green career opportunities that the UK increasingly needs if we are to achieve a lower-carbon future.”

The news comes in the same week as the launch of a new European hub to decarbonise data centres, with Microsoft as an early participant. The firm is being joined by Danfoss, Google and Schneider Electric for the Denmark-based initiative.

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