Minecraft, the popular open sandbox building game can be used to foster young girls interest in STEM field.
On the surface, Minecraft may appear to be an outdated, 8-bit game that wouldn’t appeal to most people. But in reality, there is a big reason why this global phenomenon of a video game is popular not just with kids, but adults, and even educators. For one big thing, it is a tool that experts believe will lead young girls into future STEM careers.
STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers are growing rapidly in demand all across the world. However, females in this field of work have long been underrepresented. Scientists and educators are looking for ways to change that, and Minecraft can help.
According to the AAUW, women make up just about a quarter of the workforce in all STEM fields. For quite some time now, advocates have been looking for new, innovative ways to get young girls interested in the topic. One major center of this field revolved around computer science, and Minecraft is a great tool for STEM educators to integrate into classes or after-school activities, to peak girls’ interest.
Minecraft has been one of the most popular open sandbox games since it was first created a little over a decade ago. In gameplay, the infinite terrain and possibilities to build and create in the blocky world are quite limitless. Building structures, simple machines, crafting tools, and extracting raw materials are just a few things to name. Players even have the option to modify the game to create new gameplay mechanics.
Exemplifying how to foster a love for STEM through Minecraft, initiatives like Girls Who Game – a partnership program from Dell, Microsoft, and Intel – partner with schools to foster interest in STEM fields through gameplay. This endeavor provides girls in grades 4 through 8 a chance to learn about collaborating, critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity, all while playing Minecraft.
In participating in the program, young girls get the opportunity to meet and be mentored by women working in the STEM field. Likewise, groups from across the country compete in a challenge mirroring a United Nations Sustainable Development goal each year. This year, the winners created a Minecraft world based around the oil and gas industry. The all-girls group crafted their virtual world by constructing propane-powered vehicles, artificial intelligence, and zero-waste initiatives. This serves as a prime example of how oftentimes, young girls go in solely with an interest, and possible goal to seek a career in video game building, but come out of the experience with an interest in other STEM fields as well.
The longstanding belief has been that for one reason or another, girls more than boys have had their passion for STEM fields stifled through their childhood. For this reason, leaders and key drivers in the STEM workforce are working around the clock to come up with new ways to keep girls interested in these fields for as long as possible, hopefully leading to future careers. Because of this notion, groups like Girls Who Game which takes something as simple as Minecraft, are hoping to create big waves in the STEM industry.