If you are a parent, chances are that you’ve heard of Minecraft, the video game in which users can create their own worlds and experiences using resources they discover. Well, in September, nearly 2,000 young Minecraft enthusiasts will participate in the inaugural Block by Block Party to play the game and not just for fun. These gamers will also be using their creative skills to raise money for the nonprofit Public Citizens for Children & Youth (PCCY) and fund a new grant program to help bring innovative technology into District schools.
The event, which will be Sept. 16-17 at the University of the Sciences campus, will focus on playing Minecraft, both competitively and noncompetitively, but will also feature vendors, arts, crafts, and scientific demonstrations. The initiative is in partnership with the city, the School District of Philadelphia, and PCCY. The money raised will help fund the grant program, allowing local schools to apply for up to $5,000 in high-tech help, purchase new hardware, or hire staff to make better use of existing technology.
After a recent news conference to announce the coming event, Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite and Mayor Kenney sat down with students ages 6-12, peering over their shoulders as the students showed them how to break down blocks and build structures in the popular game.
“You can build almost anything you want,” 12-year-old Omaury Negron told Hite as he showed him how to cut into blocks the surrounding stone formations found in the game’s environment.
“That’s what makes it so fun,” Negron said.
Hite and Kenney emphasized that in addition to being a fun game, Minecraft is a powerful learning tool.
“By playing Minecraft, they gain the skills to excel not only in the classroom, but in STEM-related careers after graduation,” Hite said.
“It is an exciting learning tool that will allow students to think critically while exciting their minds.”
Kenney added, “The game really connects to kids’ imaginations, and in playing they learn real things like natural sciences, construction skills, math, problem-solving, and the best of all, they explore their own creativity.”
PCCY board president Brian Rankin compared his organization to Minecraft in terms of problem-solving-oriented strategies and ability to unite children.
“Minecraft is educationally sound, builds real and usable knowledge, and its open approach to play unites children across race, class, gender, and culture,” Rankin said.
Kenney said that the event will be an opportunity for Philadelphia companies in science and technology to see what they can do to aid Philadelphia students.
“I hope this event will show companies in science and technology that they can step forward and help our kids by getting involved with PCCY,” Kenney said.
“Philadelphia is becoming a hotbed of creativity because of these companies, and I hope that energy will positively affect our children and their futures, too.”
According to Hite, the Block by Block Party will be the largest kids-only Minecraft gaming event in the world. Tickets, which are now on sale, are $35 for gamers and $20 for non-gamers, with a sponsorship option for those who want to support a child who cannot afford a ticket.