child playing Minecraft

On Saturday, March 19, 2016, the Association for Educational Communications and Technology Hawaiʻi chapter affiliate, coordinated by graduate students from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s College of Education’s Department of Learning Design and Technology, and Hawaiian Hope hosted the “Minecraft Feast: Feeding the Minds and Bodies of our Homeless Keiki” service project at the Maili Internet Café in Waiʻanae. Run by Peter Leong, an associate professor of learning design and technology, the Minecraft Feast service project aimed to feed the minds of homeless keiki by immersing them in a curriculum-based Minecraft hands-on lesson conducted by Shane Asselstine of Momilani Elementary School and also provide a nutritious lunch.

Increasing learning motivations

Research shows that poverty during early childhood strongly influences how far a child progresses in school. For many reasons, homeless and at-risk children lack interest in academics. On the other hand, game-based learning using 3D virtual worlds like Minecraft has been shown to increase learning motivations of students.

“It is often forgotten that homelessness involves children. This is why Hawaiian Hope has a goal of promoting technology to the homeless and especially to kids,” said Hawaiian Hope Executive Director Curtis Kropak. “If Hawaiʻi wants to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness then education is the key to making that happen.”

“Through Minecraft, Peter and his team were able to break down social and economic barriers, where children and parents set aside their differences to focus on the family and education,” said project volunteer Leighton Hara. “It was a real learning experience for my family, especially my six year-old son who has everything he could possibly need. Although we were there to help and ‘teach’ the homeless children, they actually taught us about compassion and about being grateful for everything we have.”

Child and parent playing Minecraft

About 20 volunteers consisting of College of Education learning design and technology alumni, current students and community members helped the children work with Minecraft.

Leong says this service project was inspired by Asselstine, the curriculum and technology coordinator at Momilani Elementary School in Pearl City. Since 2004, Asselstine has been successfully using Minecraft to engage and motivate his third to sixth grade students.

“We have thoroughly enjoyed doing our first technology-based service project on the Waiʻanae coast and look forward to working with Hawaiian Hope in the future to conduct similar technology-based workshops/classes for children of this community on a more regular basis,” said Leong.

In addition, nurses from the Asian American Pacific Islander Nurses Association Hawaiʻi Chapter were also present to do health screenings for the children and their parents during the event.

“We would like to thank our generous donors and volunteers who spent their Saturday to make our Minecraft Feast service project an enjoyable and memorable experience for the keiki and everyone involved,” said Leong.