You don’t have to be a cynic to think politics is a game. Just ask some super-imaginative elementary school kids in New Zealand who have given the country’s Parliament a virtual redesign with some interesting additions, including a petting zoo, a rollercoaster, a waterslide, and a room full of cakes.
Using Minecraft: Education Edition, teams from three schools in the national capital, Wellington, took a month to learn about the democratic process in a pilot initiative put together by a partnership between the New Zealand Parliamentary Service and Microsoft.
The students recently presented their democratic visions in the government’s executive building, which is known affectionately as the “Beehive” due to its unusual shape. In recognition of this honor, one team decided its virtual legislature should also be filled with bees, so it could produce honey as well as laws.
Microsoft Public Sector Director in New Zealand, Jeff Healey, hailed the project as a great example of using fun as a catalyst for learning. “If you learn stuff in an interesting environment, it sticks.” He said there were now plans to expand the program to further improve digital literacy in schools.
“It’s such a fantastic way to engage kids with politics, and with technology. It fires up their imagination. But it is also great for encouraging teamwork and interaction with technology, preparing them for what will be an increasingly digital future.”
He told the stuff.nz.co news website that Minecraft teaches math, spatial awareness, and social skills such as “having a plan, sticking to the plan, working the plan”.
One participant, Ben Vickers, a 12-year-old from Waikanae School, said the experience was difficult “but we learned to work together.” Perhaps he has identified a lesson for all of us – including our real-life politicians.