February 14, 2019 STEAM Students at the Old Corner Bookstore
Guest blogger, Barbara Mikolajczak leads the Immersive Education club at Saint John School in the North End using Minecraft to teach history, architecture and Math. The STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) students in her class have used Minecraft to recreate sites along The Freedom Trail using specifications from the blueprints/details/numbers provided by the sites. In October, Barbara reached out to HBI to obtain the architecture specifications of the Old Corner Bookstore building so that the class could start their preparations to create their virtual projects. In February, the students finished their renderings!
In the Fall of 2018, an Immersive Education after school club at Saint John School in the North End of Boston (iED SJS) brought The Old Corner Bookstore to life in one of the world’s most popular video games – Minecraft. Minecraft is an “open sandbox game” that revolves around the deceptively simple concept of breaking and placing blocks in a virtual world.
iED SJS students in the Minecraft club study the history and architecture of various sites along The Freedom Trail as well as visit the locations in person so they can get personal exposure to the site. Once they have visited the building, students work with either blueprints or numerical dimensions and learn the Math skills necessary to convert feet and inches into the Metric system used in Minecraft. This past semester, students were exceptionally excited to see such an important American institution in its current incarnation as a Mexican fast food restaurant. This allowed Immersive Education educators to highlight which aspects of the architecture remained original and which has been modified to reflect its current status.
Historic Boston Incorporated was kind enough to provide the students with blueprints of The Old Corner Bookstore which the students could work from. This was a wonderful opportunity for students who traditionally spend club hours working on computers or tablets to use the long established tools of pencils, rulers and paper. iED SJS students measured out the blueprints, applied the scale calculations and then converted their computations into the Metric system to determine how many “blocks” would be necessary to complete their virtual building.
Once the Mathematical portions were completed, iED SJS students collaborated in teams to determined which Minecraft materials would be best suited to represent the interior and exterior of The Old Corner Bookstore. They faced the additional challenge in some cases of deciding what aspects should be based purely on their Mathematical formulas as opposed to symmetry – since the conversion from feet and inches into meters will not always provide an exact replica.
When the exterior structure was complete, iED SJS students joyously tackled the interior aspects of the project. This was the first time students were able to add such modern aspects to their builds. They faithfully recreated the architectural details of the exposed beams and bricks while letting their creative side generate details of Chipotle. Some of these details included characters of staff and customers as well as menus and even food ready to be prepared and served.
Although, having a restaurant located inside of a historical structure on The Freedom Trail is far from traditional this unconventional aspect added a new level of understanding, learning and appreciation to a group of young minds who still reference this particular Immersive Education project as one of their most memorable.
Immersive Education offers after a wide variety of after school clubs from September to June and Summer Camp programming in July and August. Attendees learn a wide variety of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Architecture and Math) skills as well as Knowledge Tokens (Knowkens) which are redeemed for discounts in future clubs and camps. A wide range of inspired and imaginative projects await new groups of students with tablets in one hand and Old Corner Bookstore blueprints in the other.