Screenshot: Joanna Nelius / Gizmodo
Mojang Studios released a free sustainable city map on Thursday that teaches players how to create a sustainable environment in the real world by exploring a virtual environment. The emphasis is on educating students on how things like recycling plants and clean energy work, while being fun and interactive.
The map itself is free for anyone who already owns Minecraft, and there are pre-made lesson plans for teachers who want to take their lessons on a virtual tour of a sprawling city. The map and additional lesson plans aim to teach students several sustainability topics, with the opportunity to explore a hydroelectric power station, sustainable house, forest, farm, and other places.
“To help you teach sustainability to students, we’ve put together six new lessons in a whole new world of Minecraft: Education Edition,” the studio wrote in the press release. “These lessons are designed to show the sustainable processes at work in our daily lives and illustrate how some of the goals and themes of Microsoft’s annual sustainability report might appear in a Minecraft world.”
Mojang created the map to reflect Microsoft’s sustainability goals, although any mention of Microsoft is missing from the entire experience. Although these targets include carbon and water negativity by 2030, the company has continued to license software to oil companies. Nonetheless, maps still offer an educational tool for grasping the basics of how society can reduce its footprint on the planet.
The lessons are a great starting point for teachers, providing helpful questions that are repeated across different points on the map, such as: “How is your food getting from the farm to your local store”; and “Where does the outflow go once it goes down a drain?” You can actually jump into a kitchen sink and follow the drain below the surface, or open a metal grate in the middle of the street and down the drain. Teachers can also modify the lessons as they wish.
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Come in and find out! Screenshot: Joanna Nelius / Gizmodo
The lesson on sustainable food production begins with the students at the city grocery store. Then, that leads them to a farm, recycling center, and recycling plant to explore all that is needed to get food on the kitchen table and how to make that process as environmentally friendly as possible.
There is a bus that takes you around the city if you don’t want to explore on foot, or you can travel from the top of the building to the top of the building in a minecart if you want to see the world from above. The bus will always take you back to the city center, between the town hall and the grocery store, before you can get to the next place, but it’s quick.
Each of the six locations also contains numerous NPCs that students can interact with. Once you’ve got close enough, a title will appear above their head letting you know what their job title is. By clicking on it, you will get more information about what their job involves and why it is important. By chatting with one of the farm’s irrigation technicians, for example, students will learn how modern irrigation equipment can prevent overwatering by monitoring temperature, soil moisture, leaf moisture, and humidity.
Screenshot: Joanna Nelius / Gizmodo
Interested educators can find the new map by launching Minecraft: Education Edition, then clicking Play> View Library> Biomes & Worlds> Featured Worlds> Sustainability Map> then Create World to import the map to their computer. From there, they can create their own server and invite students to the world so that everyone can explore it together.
Microsoft also released some initial findings on its “10-year strategy to become carbon negative, water positive and zero waste, and develop a planetary computing platform,” according to the press release. To date, Microsoft said it has purchased 1 million metric tonnes of carbon removal in the form of forest and soil conservation projects (although they do not always reduce emissions), funded 20 projects to water replenishment and diverted 60,000 metric tons of waste from landfills. However, neither the company nor the Minecraft map has detailed what it has done with its contracts with the oil companies.