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Minecraft game helps kids with computer coding, math

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DECATUR – Minecraft is all the rage among the younger set.

“It's an open sandbox game,” said Seth Hagen, 16, who was the instructor for a 4-H session at the Decatur Public Library on Thursday. “It allows kids to make their own story when they play, so they can build and explore on their own. It's a way for them to create new things.”

Becky Huge of 4-H described it as “LEGOs on steroids.”

“You can do it in creative mode, where you just build things, or you can go into survival mode, where you play against others,” she said. “But when you go into survival mode, you're at risk of them blowing up and destroying all of your creations.”

Kids are using math and artistic skills to build their worlds, whichever mode they choose, and the game can be played at different levels, depending on the skill of the player.

This first session will last for four weeks and will be followed by a second session in June, and Hugo said both are full. She has hopes of scheduling more sessions throughout the summer and thinks that interest is high enough to support it. All they needed to get started was a place with enough desktop computers to allow everyone to use one, and the library provided that.

Hugo would like to create several 4-H clubs devoted to Minecraft.

The only thing holding them back, she said, is that an adult has to be present, and 4-H needs more adult volunteers. If interested in volunteering, call (217) 877-6042.

A lot of kids begin on Minecraft with an iPod, smartphone or tablet, but the deeper they go into the game, the more resources are necessary, and using a desktop is the only way to really advance, Seth said.

A variety of “mods,” or modifications, are available. A popular one is linked to “Game of Thrones,” where the Minecraft world is based on the movie and game play takes place in that universe.

The sessions at the library will allow kids to learn computer coding that will help them more rapidly advance and have greater control over the game, which in turn makes it more fun.

“It's really cool,” Hugo said. “The kids learn a lot from it. There's a lot of math skills, architect skills, that they take away from it. What's really cool about this (situation) is that they work together in teams, so they're learning teamwork as well. We have a lot of students from different schools throughout the community.”


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