Junior high school students at one school are learning Japanese culture by recreating historical sites in the popular game.

Autumn is a popular season for school trips, when whole grades of students travel together to popular tourist sites throughout Japan to do some hands-on learning. But with coronavirus still a major threat, and travel limited as a result, many school trips have sadly been cancelled, or at least are being contained to the local area.

But while kids have to miss out on having a weekend in a hotel or at an onsen with their friends, they still get to have some fun, at least at Reitaku Junior and Senior High School in Chiba Prefecture. The students there will get to have a virtual school trip through the world-building video game Minecraft!

Second-year students at Reitaku Junior High School were originally scheduled to take a trip to Kansai this year to check out the historical sites at Ise, Kyoto, and Nara, but as expected their trip was cancelled. After some conferencing between students and teachers, the students came up with the idea to make their own school trip by recreating those sites in Minecraft, and the administration thought it was a great idea.

Minecraft has already been used in a school setting to create a digital graduation ceremony at the beginning of the pandemic, so it’s not entirely unheard of for it to apply to education. In the case of the graduation ceremony, however, the students organized it all on their own, instead of developing it during school hours or working together with teachers and staff to make it. The students at Reitaku, on the other hand, will be spending actual class time to recreate the most famous temples and shrines of the Kansai region under teacher supervision.

The “virtual school trip” in Minecraft was approved as a study of Japanese culture since it will be a great chance for the students to learn about the history, architecture, and culture of major sites like Ise Jingu Shrine, Todaiji Temple, and Kiyomizu-dera Temple, but the use of Minecraft to recreate them also has numerous other educational purposes as well. Teachers expect to it be a segway into learning about computer programming, and the project is expected to help develop students’ spatial awareness as well as math skills.

Students will be divided into teams to work together on different sites, which teachers consider appropriate, since on school trips the kids are often divided into groups to study and travel together. The hope is that students will also be improving their communication skills and their ability to work as a team. For some students, it will be a trial of leadership as well; as many more students are familiar with the game than teachers, those students have been selected to lead the projects.

The four main purposes to the assignment–allowing students to bond and make memories with their classmates, to study historical buildings, to teach each other and learn from each other, and to become comfortable with using Minecraft–are all, generally, the same objectives teachers would hope to achieve from a regular school trip (except for the use of Minecraft, of course), so it would seem that this is a suitable, if not equal, replacement for the missed experience.

To the students this might not be as fun as taking a trip across the country with their friends, but it sure beats writing essays, so hopefully they have a great time and learn plenty with this experience. Considering the amazing accomplishments that gamers have achieved within Minecraft in the past, we’re really looking forward to seeing their recreations of famous Japanese monuments!

Source, images: PR Times
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