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KS Kapālama Middle School haumāna (from left) Tiana Ing, Noah Iyamatsu, Kaohu Helenihi and Kana‘i Gibson created a community of “Ka Kūlana Kauhale Ola,” which, according to the team, means “The Life City.” This ideal society was designed to be sustainable for multiple generations of Native Hawaiians to thrive in.

KS Kapālama haumāna build ideal communities using Minecraft

May. 13, 2019

When faced with a learning target of evaluating “Are Native Hawaiians healthy?” seventh graders at Kamehameha Schools Kapālama Middle School used a popular computer game to help bring their answers – and proposed solutions – to life, virtually.

KS kumu Gay Murakami incorporates Minecraft into her life skills class, which all seventh graders take over the course of the school year. Groups address real issues affecting the health and well-being of Native Hawaiians including: alarmingly high suicide attempt rates; homelessness; low home ownership rates; low literacy rates and reading scores; child abuse and neglect; drug abuse and addiction; access to healthcare and rising obesity rates; depression and anxiety; and the importance of secondary education and developing a college-going culture.

Using Minecraft, haumāna built ideal communities that, if constructed today, would help to address the socioeconomic issues identified during the students’ research. Prior to working in Minecraft, the students mapped out their plan in a blueprint phase, and considered specific demographic data including race and age.

Details were considered in each building, including utilizing blue light in counseling centers because it creates a calming effect for those receiving help. Additional solutions students presented were creating sustainable housing options, fostering outreach efforts and bolstering educational programs.

Maya Willing was part of a group that titled their project Ulu Pono Maluhia (safely thrive). Willing focused on stressors and suicide rates affecting communities.

“Native Hawaiians have a high rate of suicide attempts, and this was very alarming because it shows that our lāhui is struggling,” Willing said. “How can we help so we can thrive?”

The virtual construction project involved excavating earth, arranging foundations, building walls, installing roofing and doors, which, in some cases, open by stepping on a panel, and adding appropriate landscaping.

“Students created their utopian society in one hour, so it was important for them to plan out their world ahead of time,” Murakami said. “By adjusting the way materials are presented, the students are working more efficiently and really enjoying it. The project is too big for one Minecraft player, so this situation forces students to work effectively as teams.

“If we can create these places in our communities, then more Native Hawaiians will have access to services and support, and will thrive as we solve these problems.”

KS has collaborated with technology partner Microsoft to help students and staff strategically applying technology within the school environment with the ultimate goal of providing more opportunities to succeed. The partnership prepares students for the highly competitive work environment by introducing personalized and relevant learning experiences. By incorporating next-generation teaching models and efficient, effective technology infrastructures from Microsoft, KS haumāna are empowered to uplift their communities.

KS’ Information Technology team has helped with installing and maintaining the “MinecraftEdu” platform, on which students can "jump into the world" and build before taking fellow students and kumu on virtual tours of their projects.

Seventh grader Maya Willing worked on her group’s project entitled Ulu Pono Maluhia (safely thrive). Willing focused specifically on addressing stress and suicide, and ways to help her utopian community thrive.

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