Museum Day: Building up, breaking down

Reflections on a Smithsonian lesson for Museum Day Live and how to incorporate Minecraft

I decided to try the ‘Building up, breaking down’  lesson with my 5th graders. When extended with rebuilding in Minecraft: Education Edition it’s a great cross curricular lesson – touching on subjects like: history, religion, science, engineering and maths (STEM) by focusing on just one local monument. We chose Roskilde Cathedral built in the middle ages.



We don’t just build in Minecraft – we always do a lot of research and prep.

First we took a walk up to the cathedral (it’s right around the corner from school and is where we have our Christmas service every year) – looked at it, touched it, noted how the different materials had aged, how they felt. Took notes.

Back in the classroom we spent a while researching the cathedral – what was the purpose of the building then and now? why does it look like it does? An then drawing the cathedral from different angles and scaling it to fit on graph paper – getting ready to build in Minecraft.


We then went on to discussing materials; what kind of materials did they use? Why did they use those? How have they aged? After that the kids were matching up materials – meticulously – comparing the blocks to a picture of the cathedral.

Then we built. We spent a lot of time building, discussing, researching and learning. And collaborating – it takes great collaboration and communication skills when 24 5th graders are building together.


Redstone work

It is always amazing to watch – this time in particular – how the kids took on different roles:

  • Building managers who made sure that everyone were building according to the drawings
  • Builders who worked together to get everything just right
  • Engineers who tried to make a functioning gate with redstone
  • Designers who made sure that everything looked right
  • A photographer who took candid photos of everyone (see the bottom of this post)


A fun extension to this project that we may do:

How would we design the cathedral today?

The cathedral is still very much a center of our city and local community (and our country), but do we have different needs for the building now 842 years later? It would be interesting to see how the students would design it to fit modern needs and the traditional needs of a church and place for royal burials.


Here are some photos taken by a student documenting the recreation of the cathedral:


Are you new to Minecraft in Education? Check out my post on how to get started! The non-gamer’s guide to getting started with Minecraft: Education Edition


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