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Microsoft, Crown Estate Engage Budding Environmentalists in New Minecraft Education Worlds

The companies have collaborated on two new worlds aimed at engaging students on issues related to climate change and biodiversity; and to consider careers in areas such as engineering, sustainability and conservation.

Students across the UK will soon have the opportunity to test their sustainability know-how and learn more about the challenges of planning offshore wind farms and protecting the marine environment in a new Minecraft Education world called “Offshore Wind Power Challenge.” They will also learn about conservation and ecology through a second world based on the iconic Windsor Great Park.

The worlds are part of a sustainability education initiative being launched by The Crown Estate and Microsoft UK aimed at inspiring and engaging primary and senior school students to grow their knowledge and skills around climate change and the natural environment; and to consider careers in areas such as engineering, sustainability and conservation. The partnership exposes more students to the growing world of offshore wind — making important subject material accessible to a broader and younger audience and allowing them to engage with exciting new challenges through immersive, interactive game-based learning.

Image credit: Minecraft Education

With over 140 million monthly active users in 112 countries, Minecraft is the best-selling game of all time — and is especially popular with younger players. Minecraft Education provides educational content for schools globally where students can learn about a wide variety of subjects via creative gameplay. The team at Minecraft creator Mojang Studios believes it has a responsibility to use Minecraft to build a better world and inspire generations of game changers, especially around themes of global citizenship and sustainability.

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“We’re committed to making a better world through the power of play; and it’s never been more important to educate and inspire players everywhere, across all devices, about the effects of climate change,” says Justin Edwards, Director of Learning Experiences for Minecraft Education. “This partnership is an important part of that mission. It follows previous collaborations with the UK Environment Agency and BBC Studios’ ‘Frozen Planet II.’ I believe that these Minecraft worlds could well usher in the next generation of wind farm engineers or nature conservationists!”

Microsoft and The Crown Estate are the latest companies heading to the metaverse to engage gamers on various sustainability topics, joining companies including H&M and McCain Foods — which have created games in the metaverse to engage players on the principles and importance of circular fashion and regenerative agriculture, respectively. Their joint initiative includes two new worlds created for Minecraft Education, each with supporting lesson plans and teaching materials aligned with the curriculum in each of the UK’s devolved nations. The worlds are also due to be released on Minecraft Bedrock Edition later this year, as will Welsh language versions of the two worlds.

In “Offshore Wind Power Challenge,” students will see if they can power a coastal village by designing and building an offshore wind farm. In doing so, they will have to navigate the need to produce renewable energy, whilst balancing the needs of all other marine users — including the impact on natural habitats.

Image credit: Minecraft Education

The second world, based on Windsor Great Park, gives students the chance to be a conservation apprentice at one of the UK’s most renowned environmental and ecological sites. The park, which has a history stretching back over 1,000 years, is home to thousands of species of wildlife spanning approximately 4,500 acres. Students will have a unique opportunity to manage the ecological health of the historic park through the immersive world of Minecraft by completing a series of quests to learn about the water cycle, the aquatic food chain, conservation and environmental management.

“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,” says Judith Everett, The Crown Estate’s Executive Director for Purpose, Stakeholder and Sustainability. “At The Crown Estate, we are fortunate to be stewards of some of the UK’s most incredible natural environments — including the seabed and Windsor Great Park. 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.”

Judging from the reception from early test groups of students, the worlds are connecting as intended: During a lesson with a group of year 8 students, Edwards says they were thoroughly engaged in the challenges: “The students were so engrossed that there was total silence in the room. To hear the educator, Tracy, asking questions at the end and for the students to repeat back confidently the learning, you know that the learning has stuck and they’ve also enjoyed the experience. That’s what educators want – children to learn and have fun.”