LSU AgCenter entomologist enters gaming world to teach about pollination

Tobie Blanchard  |  10/4/2018 4:17:22 PM

(10/04/18) BATON ROUGE, La. — In real life Kristen Healy battles mosquitoes and saves pollinators. The LSU AgCenter entomologist is helping create tools that will allow students to do the same in a simulated space.

Healy teamed up with AgCenter information technology manager Andrew Garcia to develop an education module for building a pollinator garden in the education edition of the popular gaming platform Minecraft.

“Part of my job is to find different ways of educating people, and I wanted to do more outreach on pollinators,” Healy said.

Healy developed lesson objectives, guiding ideas, student activities and performance expectations for the module. Garcia built the virtual world, which includes a museum, nonplayer characters that provide information and tools, and plots of land for the garden.

Healy said she wants students to understand the importance of pollinators and the ways to attract them and to appreciate the value of pollinator gardens.

Any teachers with a Minecraft Education license can implement the lesson into their classrooms.

The goal is for the students to navigate through the world while learning about pollinators such as native bees and butterflies, their habitat and how to protect them. Students will encounter characters such as Bob the Bee Guy, Dr. Beenice and even a Kristen and an Andrew.

“The nonplayer characters are interactive and have text or provide plants or gardening supplies,” Garcia said. The Andrew character hands the student players flowers.

The students will gather all the tools needed to build the garden before coming to their plot of land where they can lay out their design.

Garcia and Healy were able to use many plants and tools that were already a part of the platform to create their module.

“Agriculture is already very prevalent in Minecraft with farming, plants and livestock,” Healy said.

Following the activity, the students can take screenshots of their garden and discuss what they did and why.

Healy and Garcia each have children who play Minecraft and said it’s a great way to engage students in the lessons.

Garcia said many students don’t have access to real gardens, but this provides a virtual field trip for a class.

Healy has already developed lesson plans for the next module: epidemiology and control of mosquito-borne diseases. While the pollinator lesson is open to all ages, this one will be geared toward high school students with an objective of controlling the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.

Garcia is looking at ways to design a Minecraft module that includes building mosquitoes.

The pollinator garden module can be found online at http://bit.ly/2P9Su3X.

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LSU AgCenter entomologist Kristen Healy shows a scene from building a pollinator garden, an education module she helped create in Minecraft, a popular video game platform. Photo by Tobie Blanchard/LSUAgCenter

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A screenshot from Minecraft Education Edition module building a pollinator garden. LSU AgCenter entomologist Kristen Healy and AgCenter information technology manager Andrew Garcia created the module to help students understand the importance of pollinators.

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As students make their way through building a pollinator garden module, they encounter characters that help them gather the information and supplies they need to create their garden.

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