Learn geology in Minecraft with BetterGeo
European education project uses video game to teach geology Metal Tech News – September 30, 2020
Last updated 7/10/2022 at 2:50pm
Europe takes a different approach to education by developing a video game modification for one of the world's most popular games, Minecraft.
With an increasing population requiring larger infrastructure and new technologies demanding larger quantities of a wider array of minerals, our society is increasingly reliant on minerals and metals.
All these materials have one thing in common – geology.
To help raise awareness about these needed raw materials and geology, BetterGeoEdu is a Europe-wide project designed to support formal and informal educators in teaching and learning about 21st century mining issues using Minecraft.
Initiated by European Institute of Innovation and Technology, a body of the European Union, and funded by EIT RawMaterials, this project started with a game mod named BetterGeo.
BetterGeo alters Minecraft's base functions by adding realistic geology, with new rocks, minerals, and metals as well as realistic ways to discover them.
The project offers teaching about raw materials and their importance in everyday life, from extraction to end-product.
The mod is designed to make the game function as a compliment to practical studies, by learning to identify different raw materials and their applications after working with them in the game.
Since its creation in 2009, Minecraft has grown into one of the most well-known video games in the world.
With the aim of the game being made to survive in a world of blocks, and discovering and using resources being paramount to that survival, it seems like a match made in heaven that such a game provides the perfect platform for geological education.
To construct buildings, tools or weapons, players need to extract raw materials such as wood, stone and metal and one of the largest challenges is finding those resources.
Mining of raw materials is the largest part of the game, however with very simplified geology.
Gold, diamonds and iron are all found in the same grey rock called "stone", whereas, in reality, hundreds of different rocks, minerals and ores host different raw materials.
In many ways the game is already fundamentally about geology, of a sort.
The mod developed by the project changes the player's Minecraft experience by adding multiple new rock types, ores, minerals, metals, gemstones and even fossils, along with realistic placements for them.
BetterGeo also adds more realistic ways to extract the metals from the minerals and rocks, along with several other new features such as environmental issues, weathering of certain rocks, new soil types and even alloying.
This allows players to explore new items to be built from all the new materials.
Recently the mod has been expanded with new features revolving around education and teaching of geology.
By discovering new rocks, minerals, metals or soils, the player receives in-game books which give more information about the item, the specimen's geology and where it can be found.
The update has also introduced a new achievement system, which allows the player to see their progress in the game.
Achievements could also be earned for making use of the metals when constructing, for example, an electronic conductivity meter (a new item in the game), and then using it to find more raw materials in the ground.
This gives the player a sense of progression, which could also be used in teaching. The student can, for example, be given the task to complete a certain set of achievements and then explain the chain from rock to finished product.
Presently, BetterGeo has been acclaimed by children, parents, universities and even experts in the mining industry as a fantastic resource to educate about geology and raw materials, how they interact and their importance in everyday life.
Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, many parents are opting to educate their children from home, so bringing awareness to such an appropriate learning tool that aligns with the fervor of Minecraft in the younger generations seems only appropriate. This may also spark the imagination of budding geologists living in a real world with an increasing need for raw materials and experts with knowledge about minerals, where to discover them, and what to do with them after they are mined.
By working with the existing Minecraft platform, which is already known by millions, BetterGeoEdu hopes to continue raising interest and awareness of geology, minerals, metals, and alloys by reaching out to the younger generation, their parents and teachers to spread the message to a wider target group.
Designed to be user-friendly, easily accessible and relevant for different countries, BetterGeoEdu will continue to support the Minecraft mod to incite interest, bring awareness and provide a thorough and exciting learning tool to one of the world's most popular games.